Health Information Seeking

Authored by: Ezequiel M. Galarce , Shoba Ramanadhan , K. Viswanath

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  April  2011
Online publication date:  August  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415883146
eBook ISBN: 9780203846063
Adobe ISBN: 9781136931673


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When does a parent decide whether a child’s fever is high and persistent enough to go to the emergency room? Is that allergy medicine shown on TV commercials effective? How does a patient decide which available treatment option is better for her? The growing complexity of the information environment and the choices one is expected to exercise have set the bar high for public and patient health engagement. Engagement implicitly assumes a Jeffersonian notion of an informed citizenry and an advanced level of knowledge necessary to making health decisions. Health knowledge, in turn, implies active health information seeking. For this reason, health information seeking, along with its determinants and consequences, has become a major subject of scientific interest. This growing attention to health information seeking behaviors (HISBs) can be traced to two related phenomena. For more than a decade, there has been a growing reliance on patients’ active participation in treatment choices, self-monitoring, and self-care, leading to a shift from a paternalistic model of patient–provider interaction to a shared decision-making paradigm (Institute of Medicine, 2001). This transition has been accompanied by a rapid increase in the availability of treatment options and health information in the environment (Viswanath, 2005). Health information has become ubiquitous, constantly appearing in pharmaceutical advertisements, health news, entertainment media, health websites, and, more recently, in user-generated Internet content, such as blogs and microblogs through a variety of information delivery platforms—as discussed in multiple chapters in this Handbook.

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