Interest in the communication of health information among disadvantaged populations has increased in recent years with the shift from a model of patient-provider communication to one of a more empowered healthcare consumer; with the use of new communication technologies that increase the number of channels through which health information may be accessed; and with the steadily increasing number of people without health insurance. Three separate research literatures contribute to our current understanding of this issue. In the medicine and public health literature, disparities in health access and outcomes among socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial groups are now well documented. In the information sciences literature, scholars note that on a continuum of health information behaviors, ranging from information avoidance and nonseeking to active seeking, nonseeking behaviors are associated with disadvantaged populations. In the communication literature, enthusiasm over the technology-driven growth of online health information seeking is tempered by evidence supporting the knowledge gap hypothesis, which indicates that as potential access to health information increases, systematic gaps in health knowledge also increase as groups with higher socioeconomic status acquire this information at a faster rate than those with lower socioeconomic status. A number of diverse strategies show promise in reducing information and health disparities, including those that focus on technology, such as programs to increase computer and Internet access, skills, and comprehension; those that focus on interpersonal communication, such as the community health worker model; and those that focus on mass media channels, such as entertainment education.
- Communication of health information
- Health disparities
- Knowledge gap hypothesis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health