Quick Summary: What’s the best way for employees to get their daily dose of trusted health information? Even with the growing number of health-information seekers on the Web, a new study ranks print media among the best places for health information that helps readers follow a healthy lifestyle.
It’s so easy to perform a Google search for answers to health questions. Or post a question on a social media site. Or text a friend. But when it comes to actually finding information that translates into a healthier lifestyle, print media, community organizations, and a person’s own doctor are the biggest influencers.
“I think much is to be learned about health information-seeking behaviors and their relationship to the adoption of health behaviors in various demographic groups,” said Nicole Redmond, MD, who led the team of researchers. “One of the challenges in this area is the rapidly evolving nature of information technology … such as text messaging and Internet access through smart phones and social networking sites.”
Redmond is in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers used data from the 2005 and 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) and included responses from more than 10,000 participants.
The survey asked about which two categories of sources participants were more likely to use for health information. Did they turn to mass media, which included Internet, TV and print media, or interpersonal sources, such as family and friends, community organizations and health care providers?
Dr. Redmond and her colleagues looked for a link between the sources participants chose and whether they followed healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as not smoking, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting recommended cancer screening. They found that print media, community organizations, and health care providers showed the strongest associations.
“I was not entirely surprised by the role of community organizations, but I did expect that friends and family would have shown a significant association with some health behaviors as well,” said Dr. Redmond.
In the 2005 HINTS study, those who used print media and community organizations for information had increased odds of meeting fruit and vegetable recommendations and being a nonsmoker than those who used other sources.
Likewise, in the 2007 survey, those who reported recent use of health care providers as a source for information had 32% higher odds of meeting recommended fruit and vegetable intake, and 36% higher odds of having had a colonoscopy or other colon-cancer screening test than those who didn’t use a health care provider.
One red flag of caution in searching cyberspace for health information, said Jennifer McClure, PhD, associate director for research at the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle. “Consumers need to be careful when seeking health care information through the public domain. They need to rely on credible sources and be sure to follow up with their health care providers before making significant changes to their lifestyle behaviors based on this information.”
• Examine how your company conveys health information. Provide print sources among the mix.
• Invite community health organizations to present lunch ’n learn sessions and to exhibit at your company health fairs.
Sources: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health; American Journal of Preventive Medicine
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