chapter  12
22 Pages

Online Health Information: Conceptual Challenges and Theoretical Opportunities

ByS. Shyam Sundar, Ronald E. Rice, Hyang-Sook Kim, Chris N. Sciamanna

While the digital divide is still a reality, with e-health usage tempered by access issues (e.g., Beckjord et al., 2007), sociodemographic, psychological, and health factors (e.g., McNeill, Puleo, Bennett, & Emmons, 2007; Rice, 2006), the trend toward posting and seeking health information online continues, especially globally. In Europe, 44% of the adult population of Norway, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, and Latvia (71% of Internet users in these countries) report going online for health information (Andreassen et al., 2007) in order to read up on medical conditions and prepare for or follow up on doctor visits. Similar patterns have been observed in less developed parts of the world, especially among the younger generation. For example, Borzekowski, Fobil, and Asante (2006) report that two-thirds of the in-school youth and over half (54%) of out-of-school adolescents in Ghana’s capital city of Accra had gone online, with 53% of them seeking health information on the Internet with “great interest” and “high levels of effi cacy” (p. 450).