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Parental health information seeking and re-exploration of the 'digital divide'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPrimary health care research & development
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2013

King's Authors

Abstract

Aim: To describe patterns of 'online' and 'offline' health information seeking in families with children under five years of age and living in five socially, economically and culturally disparate local authority (LA) wards in one inner-city area. Background: Earlier work analysed data from the five LA wards merged as one data set. A 'digital divide' in health information seeking was identified between parents who actively sought information from both internet websites and from 14 other health information sources (online health information seekers), and those who acquired information from a more limited range of sources excluding the internet. Of the two groups, the online health information seekers had higher levels of computer ownership and, therefore, internet access within the home. Method: Re-analysis of data (questionnaires n = 224; five focus groups; two interviews with service providers; two opportunistic conversations with service providers). Additional data were retrieved after the original data analysis and between 2005 and 2007. These data were from service user-led discussions (n = 30) held with parents in child health clinics, informal interviews (n = 11) with health visitors and semi-structured interviews (n = 2) with health visitors. Information was also retrieved from the Office for National Statistics data set. In the re-analysis, data were disaggregated at LA ward level in order to explore local influences on patterns of health information seeking. Results: Multiple layers of influence upon parental health information seeking emerged and revealed a non-digital second divide, which was independent of computer ownership and home internet access. This divide was based on preference for use of certain health information sources, which might be either 'online' or 'offline'. A spatial patterning of both digital and preferential divides was identified with an association between each of these and features of the physical, social, cultural and psychosocial environment, one of which was perceived access to primary health care. Conclusion: Complex patterns of health information seeking relate to each of the 'divides' - digital and preferential. Patterns of health information seeking reflect differing perceptions of information availability and usefulness as experienced by parents within their local physical, social, cultural and psychosocial worlds. Access to primary care services is a key component of this local environment.

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