Use of the Internet for increasing access to health education

Date

5/30/1999

Authors

Veach, Carol Cates

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine perceptions of Internet use among participants of the Special Nutritional Food Supplement Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants in Denton, Texas. This research used both qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the research questions. A total of 45 WIC clients in Denton, Texas volunteered to participate as subjects in this research study. An Internet demonstration of nutrition and general health websites using a special gateway webpage designed for low literate and accessibility was conducted. All subjects participated in the computer demonstration followed by a focus group discussion. Six separate focus groups were held in January, 1999 at the WIC office in Denton, Texas. Study participants' perceived beliefs and barriers to using the Internet for health seeking purposes were obtained through the use of focus groups. HyperResearch was used for data analysis. Qualitative analysis of focus group discussions revealed that WIC clients were interested in using the Internet for health and other topics, and lack of access and lack of training were reported as the primary barriers to Internet use. Lack of time to travel to a public access site and time restrictions on use were identified as additional barriers. Subjects believed they would use the Internet based on the demonstration if it were available, particularly at the WIC office, and if sufficient training were made available. Experience levels of using a computer and the Internet varied among subjects from no experience to some experience. Further analysis indicated that an appropriate gateway page designed for accessibility needs, low literate or inexperienced users in addition to carefully selected website links is significant to the user's interest and satisfaction level. Given the choice, about two-thirds of the participants preferred to use a touchscreen to obtain information and one-third preferred a mouse.

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Keywords

Health and environmental sciences, Communication and the arts, Social sciences, Education, Access, Health education, Internet, Special Nutritional Food Supplement Program for Women, Infants, and Children

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