Background: The "digital divide" is the gap between those with access to information tools such as the Internet and those without access. The gap has been described by income, education, age, and race. Little information exists on computer and Internet access and use for health information by parents, particularly among populations of low income and low education level.
Objective: To describe computer and Internet access and use, including health information retrieval, among low-income, urban, African American caregivers (parents).
Design: Cross-sectional survey administered in pediatric waiting rooms of urban community-based health centers in a low-income area.
Participants: Caregivers of pediatric outpatients.
Main outcome measures: Access to computers, Internet access, and use of Internet for health information.
Results: In 2003, among 260 African Americans who completed surveys, 58% had a computer and 41% had home Internet access. Fifty-two percent had used the Internet for finding health information. Ninety-three percent agreed or strongly agreed that there is useful health information on the Internet. Ninety-two percent agreed or strongly agreed that they would want to talk with a medical professional about health information on the Internet. Sixty-five percent of respondents had no additional schooling after high school. Annual household income was <US 24,999 dollars for 57%. Computer use and Internet access were significantly higher in caregivers with higher education and income.
Conclusions: Most pediatric patients' families have home computers and believe there is useful health information on the Internet, even among low-income and traditionally underserved populations. Most would like to discuss Internet-based health information with their providers.