Objectives: While evaluating the effect of a community-wide informational intervention, this study explored access, health, and demographic factors related to the use of medical reference books, telephone advice nurses, and computers for health information.
Methods: A random sample of households in the intervention city (Boise, Idaho) and two control cities were surveyed about their use of health information in 1996. Shortly thereafter, the Healthwise Communities Project (HCP) distributed health information to all Boise residents. A follow-up survey was conducted in 1998. Overall, 5,909 surveys were completed for a 54% response rate.
Results: The HCP intervention was associated with statistically significant increases in the use of medical reference books and telephone advice nurses. The increased use of computers for health information was marginally significant. Few access, health, or demographic factors were consistently associated with using the different resources, except that people with depression used more of all three information resources, and income was not a significant predictor.
Conclusion: Providing free health information led to an increase in use, but access, health, and demographic factors were also important determinants. In particular, poor health status and presence of a chronic illness were associated with health information use. These results suggest that healthy consumers are less interested in health information, and it may take other incentives to motivate them to learn about prevention and healthy behaviors.