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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Low-income Internet users in California search for health information online
A case study of Californians finds that poorer Internet users report their health searches helped them with medical issues. According to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and funded by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), low-income Californians who use the Internet are just as likely as more well-to-do Internet users to go online in search of health-care information and two-thirds of those poorer Internet users report they gain important benefits from their online searches.
Relatively poor Internet users in California are more wired and have more online experience than their peers in other parts of the United States. This finding suggests that as more low-income Americans go online and become comfortable with using the Internet they will enjoy the same benefits as more upscale Internet users who do searches online for important medical information.
The survey found that 45 per cent of Californians living in households with annual incomes of less than $30,000 use the Internet, compared to 36 per cent of those living in low-income households outside California. A total of 66 per cent of those Californians report that their online health searches have improved the health services they have received. “We didn’t expect to find low-income residents sharing so fully in the information feast,” said Susannah Fox, director of research at the Pew Internet Project and author of Wired for Health. “There are still barriers for many low-income Americans in using the Internet, but this study is a ray of hope for those who would like to see the online health revolution brought to all Americans, regardless of income. Once someone goes online, it is not very long before she finds that the medical information on the Web can be a significant help.”
The California HealthCare Foundation engaged the Pew Internet & American Life Project to take a closer look at how Californians use the Internet to research health information, particularly low-income Internet users and, separately, Latino Internet users. Telephone interviews were conducted with 663 Californians and compared to a sample of 1,800 non-Californians (American adults living in the 47 other continental states).
The December 2002 survey was conducted only in English and showed at that time that Californians were somewhat more likely to use the Internet than those in other parts of the country. The survey found that 58 per cent of California’s English-speaking Latinos have access to the Internet and are, for the most part, in good health. By comparison, 63 per cent of all Californians go online. It turns out that English-speaking Latinos in California search for many of the same health topics online, but at lower rates than non-Latino whites. Of English-speaking Californian Latino Internet users, 78 per cent have researched at least one topic online, which is below the average for all Californian Internet users (83 per cent).
The survey also found that Californians in all income brackets and of all ethnicities are in line with the rest of the country when it comes to most Internet health search habits. However, online Californians differ from other wired Americans in three areas of online health: 31 per cent of online Californians have searched the Internet for information about health insurance, compared to 24 per cent of the rest of the country’s Internet users.
Furthermore, 33 per cent of online Californians have searched for alternative treatments, compared to 27 per cent of the rest of the country’s Internet users, and 23 per cent of online Californians have searched for experimental medical treatments, compared to 17 per cent of the rest of the country’s Internet users.
“Findings from this research suggest that millions are turning to the Internet to figure out how to take care of themselves and their families,” said Claudia Page, Program Officer at CHCF. “The challenge is to continue to close the gap between those with Internet access and those without.”
EDUCAUSE supports decision on P2P subpoenas
EDUCAUSE applauds the US Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia’s decision rejecting an effort to compel Internet providers to identify individuals accused of unauthorized file sharing. EDUCAUSE will continue working with partners, the content community, and the US Copyright Office to ensure a balance between new technologies and fair use in the digital realm.
EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Membership is open to institutions of higher education, corporations serving the higher education information technology market, and other related associations and organizations. Resources include professional development activities; print and electronic publications, including books, monographs, and magazines; strategic policy advocacy; teaching and learning initiatives; applied research; and extensive online information services.
The Internet is playing a growing role in politics
More than a third of US Internet users have gone online to get news and information, exchange emails about the current political campaign, or participate online in this campaign. Even among wired Americans, the Internet still lags far behind television and newspapers as voters” main source of political news. But the importance of the Internet continues to grow as it now rivals radio as a primary source of political information. Moreover, there is evidence that the early efforts by campaigns to engage voters through email have drawn an audience.
According to a survey of 1,506 American adults conducted by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and the Pew Internet & American Life Project between December 19 and January 4, 22 per cent of all Internet users have gone online to get news or information about the current campaign. The figure equals the number who had done this during all of the off-year elections in 2002, so there is some reason to think that by the end of this campaign that many more Internet users will have found at least some news or information about the political races of 2004.
In addition, 18 per cent of all Internet users have sent or received emails about the candidates or campaigns either from their acquaintances or from groups or political organizations; 7 per cent of all Internet users have participated in online campaign activities such as contributing to discussion groups, signing petitions, or donating money. Some 1,002 of the people surveyed are Internet users. The margin of error on the sample is 3.5 percentage points for the Internet-user portion of the sample.
The survey also found that:
52 per cent have gone online to look for more information about candidates’ positions on the issues.
29 per cent have used the Internet to find out about campaign organizations or activities in their communities. This represents more than 11 million people and includes those who have used online social networking sites like Meetup.com to connect to local supporters of candidates that appeal to them. Among the most likely to have used the Internet to find local organizations are young city dwellers.
28 per cent have visited Web sites set up by groups or organizations that promote candidates or political positions. Our previous research showed that growing numbers of Internet users are using sites set up by interest groups to gain information about the candidates they endorse or issue-positions that candidates hold.
25 per cent have been to candidate or campaign Web sites.
13 per cent have participated in political discussions through blogs or chat groups.
At this early stage of the campaign, the most active and politically engaged Internet users are more liberal than conservative, more Democratic than Republican, and more likely to oppose President Bush than support him. This is especially true among those who have traded emails about the race with other individuals or political organizations. This is likely because there is an active race among Democrats for the party’s nomination, while Republicans already have their nominee in the President. It is likely the differences will narrow as the general election takes shape and as Republicans gear up their massive emailing operations.
The general profile of these Internet users is that they are relatively more likely to be men, in their 30s and 40s, relatively well-to-do, well educated, suburban, and secular in their outlook.