Conference presentation: "A survey of low-income health information consumers in the Southeast."

Thomas, Patricia J., Springston, Jeffrey K., Lariscy, Ruthann

Asking people is the best way to learn about their health worries and where they turn for news and information. Equipped with answers, journalists and health communicators can better satisfy the health information needs of low-income families affected by health inequities.

Participation in the study was limited to 400 adults with household incomes <= $35,000/year, which removes poverty and race as confounding factors. The survey area covers 72 Georgia and 41 Alabama counties — a region below the Gnat Line and part of the historic Black Belt.

The top five health concerns were cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, accidental injury and diabetes. Violence ranked among the top 10 worries, and was of equal concern to rural and urban dwellers, regardless of age. Having health insurance and being able to afford prescription drugs were the leading access issues, regardless of race. Television was the leading source of health-related news and information, with talk shows scoring especially high. Newspapers were the second most frequently cited source, followed by magazines.

Knight Chair Patricia Thomas presented study findings at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media, organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and held in Atlanta (August 2008).

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