Reducing disparities in the access and use of Internet health information. a discussion paper

Int J Nurs Stud. 2007 Sep;44(7):1270-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.05.007. Epub 2006 Jul 10.


Internet health information is rated highly by users and is used to compensate for gaps in health information provided by health professionals. Greater understanding of health issues and changes to personal health management has been reported as a consequence of Internet use. However, there are significant disparities in the access and use of Internet health information linked to income, education and ethnicity. In this paper a case is presented that on-line health information particularly benefits the already privileged in terms of health care; well-educated people with access to economic resources. Several intervention points are suggested to improve Internet health information accessibility and use for all population groups. Interventions at an institutional level include improving equity of Internet access through the provision of free services at strategic sites and improving the readability and cultural acceptability of health information. Individually focused interventions involve skill development to enable effective navigation of Internet sites, identification of patient and families' information needs and support to develop evaluation skills. The effectiveness of these interventions in reducing disparities is reliant on nurses and other health professionals' expertise in accessing, evaluating and using Internet health information in their clinical practise. On-line health information is a powerful medium for quick and dynamic knowledge distribution. The challenge for nurses and other health professionals is directing that knowledge to the groups most disadvantaged in the current health care systems, with an agenda of reducing inequalities in access to health information.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information* / psychology
  • Attitude to Computers
  • Comprehension
  • Computer Literacy
  • Computer User Training
  • Educational Status
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Information Services / organization & administration*
  • Internet / organization & administration*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Self Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data