Web-Based Health Information Does Not Help People Live Healthier Lives
From 2000 to 2004, Pro-Change Behavior Systems, a research and development health behavior change firm, examined how well health behavior change websites help users change their health habits and how individuals use those sites.
The researchers accomplished the following:
- Examined 294 websites covering seven health areas (diet, exercise, smoking, asthma, alcohol use, depression and diabetes).
- Developed a survey instrument to determine consumers' readiness to use the Internet to change health-related behavior.
- Fielded the survey: Some 413 people completed the baseline survey; of these, 77 percent completed the follow-up survey one year later.
In Impacts of Health Behavior Change of Health.Com Programs, the researchers reported the following findings:
- The researchers found few prior studies that examined the effectiveness of Web-based programs for promoting changes in health behavior. Programs specifically designed for the Internet are more effective than sites that transfer pre-existing behavior change programs to the Web.
- The majority of websites that are readily available to consumers do not meet the minimum criteria needed to help individuals change risky health behavior or manage chronic illnesses.
- Sites on diet, exercise and smoking are further along than those on asthma, alcohol and depression.
In Toward Maximizing Internet Impacts on Health Promotion and Disease Management, the researchers reported the following findings:
- Some 80.5 percent of respondents to the baseline survey used the Internet to get health information; however, only 28.9 percent used the Internet to help them change their health behavior or manage a chronic disease.
- The majority of individuals (54%) remained at the same stage of behavioral change from the baseline to the follow-up survey; however, 25.9 percent progressed through stages while 21 percent regressed.
- In the follow-up survey, the majority of individuals who said in the baseline survey that they used the Internet to help them change risky health behavior were no longer using these types of programs.