Internet and Mobile Technology Use Among Urban African American Parents

Ivor Braden Horn* Ivor Braden Horn*, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, United States
Stephanie J Mitchell, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, United States

Track: Research
Presentation Topic: Health disparities
Presentation Type: Poster presentation
Submission Type: Single Presentation

Last modified: 2012-09-12

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Background: There is considerable potential for mobile technologies to empower pediatric patients and families, in particular by improving their communication with health professionals. While mHealth technology seems poised to transform healthcare communication, its efficacy in minority populations in unclear. National surveys suggest minority parents frequently communicate via text messages, but it is uncertain how amenable they are to receiving healthcare information in this format. While the low-cost and far-reach of mHealth technology makes it advantageous for communication with minority parents, data on acceptance is necessary.

Objectives: To determine utilization of mobile and Internet technology by parents in an urban, at risk population, and to assess their interest in receiving health information via text-messaging or other technologies (e.g., social media and the Internet).

Methods: A survey was conducted with 266 parents (over age 18, legal guardians) of children (1-12 years old, covered by public insurance) receiving care at three pediatric primary care centers in Washington, DC. The survey included questions about demographics, cell phone use, internet use, and social networking based on the Pew Internet & American Life Project Poll. Chi-square tests were used to explore differences by parent education, household income, and child chronic illness.

Results: This sample was composed primarily of African American (93%), single (78%) mothers with two children, on average. Half had more than a high school education and incomes above $25,000 per year (58%). Over two-thirds of participants use their cell phones for functions other than calls. Almost 20% send more than 50 texts per day; while these are most often about important personal matters, only 17% share health information via text. Those with more than a HS education were more likely to text at all but texted less frequently than those with less education. Those with incomes less than $25,000 were more likely to send text messaging sharing information about their health than those with higher incomes. Almost ¾ have internet access at home, but only half use the internet to get health info. However, over 80% are interested in getting health info online, via email or in texts. Those with more education and higher income were more likely to have internet access at home, and those with more education were more likely to use the internet to get health info. 80% use social networking, primarily Facebook, and almost half access these sites daily. Those with lower incomes were more likely to use social networking (and were more likely to use MySpace as opposed to LinkedIn). 73% are interested in joining a social networking group about a health topic concerning their child.

Conclusions: While urban African American parents are active users of the internet and mobile technology for social interactions, they are less likely to utilize it for accessing or communicating health information. However, the vast majority of parents expressed an interest in receiving health information or utilizing social networking to learn more about health topics. Mobile technology and social networks may be an underutilized method of providing health information to underserved minority populations.

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