“If My Mother Was Alive I’d Probably Have Called Her.”

Roma Harris, Nadine Wathen

Abstract


Women living in a rural Canadian county were interviewed about how they locate health information. The experiences they described raise interesting questions about the efficacy of government sponsored e-health initiatives, particularly when such programs are intended to compensate individuals who live in remote communities for lack of access to health care services. Most of the women in the study undertake considerable health-related information gate-keeping for themselves and on behalf of family members and others in their personal networks. They seek and assess information from a wide variety of sources, some of which they locate via the Internet, and they balance what they learn against their experiences with the formal health system. The women’s accounts focused repeatedly on the quality of their relationship with those to whom they turn for assistance, although the actual roles of helpers, whether physicians, friends, librarians, or staff in health food stores, often appeared to be incidental. Instead, helpers’ perceived effectiveness seemed to depend largely on how well they express care when information is exchanged. Several women also reported that they had diagnosed and even treated themselves, sometimes on the basis of information gathered from the Internet. These and other findings are discussed with respect to public policy concerning consumer health information and the potential role of public libraries in the provision of health information programming in rural communities.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5860/rusq.47n1.67

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