Health information seeking in the digital age: a national survey of women with disabilities

Susan Robinson-Whelen, Rosemary B. Hughes, Jeanne L. Alhusen, Leanne Beers, Charles G. Minard, David Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Access to high quality and accessible online health information (OHI) is critical for reducing disparities, overcoming barriers, and improving the health of women with disabilities. This study aimed to understand women with physical disabilities’ use of the Internet to access OHI, most often searched health topics, perceived usefulness of OHI, and self-reported eHealth literacy and challenges in OHI seeking. Methods: We conducted a national online survey with 508 women with physical disabilities who used the Internet. Results: Respondents utilized a wide variety of OHI resources. They searched a broad array of health and disability-related topics, with bowel/bladder and finding a physician the most highly searched topics. They generally had confidence in their eHealth literacy skills and ability to understand statistics in OHI. Nevertheless, although our sample consisted of a majority of highly educated internet-users, a sizeable percentage found OHI seeking difficult and frustrating, did not find the information very helpful, and had concerns about the quality of information. Conclusions: This study serves as a call to action to disability and rehabilitation scientists, health care providers, and other health professionals to enhance the availability and accessibility of OHI critical to empowering women with physical disabilities to make well-informed health decisions. Implications for rehabilitation Access to high quality online health information (OHI) is critical for reducing disparities, overcoming barriers, and improving the health of women with disabilities. Many of the women with disabilities in our study found OHI seeking difficult and frustrating, did not find the information very helpful, and had concerns about the quality of the information. Disability and rehabilitation scientists, health care providers, and public health and health policy professionals need to do more to enhance the availability and accessibility of OHI and resources critical to empowering women with physical disabilities to make well-informed health decisions. Physical medicine and rehabilitation scientists are encouraged to develop and improve assistive technologies needed for accessing OHI, which in turn can promote the independent functioning of people with disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2751-2760
Number of pages10
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Volume45
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Keywords

  • Online health information seeking
  • disability
  • eHealth literacy
  • survey study
  • women
  • Humans
  • Self Report
  • Health Literacy
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Self-Help Devices
  • Telemedicine
  • Blindness
  • Female
  • Internet
  • Disabled Persons

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