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Free Content Online health information search and evaluation: observations and semi‐structured interviews with college students and maternal health experts

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Abstract

Background:  While the Internet is a popular source of health information, health seekers’ inadequate skills to locate and discern quality information pose a potential threat to their healthcare decision‐making.

Objectives:  We aimed to examine health information search and appraisal behaviours among young, heavy users of the Internet.

Methods:  In study 1, we observed and interviewed 11 college students about their search strategies and evaluation of websites. In study 2, three health experts evaluated two websites selected as the best information sources in study 1.

Results:  Familiarity with health websites and confidence in search strategies were major factors affecting search and evaluation behaviours. Website quality was mostly judged by aesthetics and peripheral cues of source credibility and message credibility. In contrast to users’ favourable website evaluation, the experts judged the websites to be inappropriate and untrustworthy.

Conclusion:  Our results highlight a critical need to provide young health seekers with resources and training that are specifically geared toward health information search and appraisal. The role of health seekers’ knowledge and involvement with the health issue in search effort and success warrants future research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Advertising, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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