Background: Concerns about health and health care disparities have led some groups to promote better communication of medical information as a potential means of empowering patients to overcome barriers to health care and to practice healthy behaviors. We examined the independent effect of race/ethnicity on perceptions of the usefulness of different sources of health information.
Methods: We analyzed data from a cross-sectional telephone survey of black, Latino, and white adults (n = 515) in Durham County North Carolina, in 2002. Respondents rated the usefulness of medical information sources, nonmedical information sources, and media. We used logistic regression to determine the effect of race/ethnicity on ratings of information sources, adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and health status factors.
Results: Compared to white respondents, Latinos and black respondents were more likely to perceive as useful the local health department, ministers/churches, community centers, television, and radio. Latinos were less likely than white and black respondents to report the pharmacy as a useful source of medical information.
Limitations: Some findings may be particular to Durham County, especially those based on the Latino subgroup. Also, the response rate (43%) suggests that nonresponse bias may have affected our results. Finally perceived usefulness may affect one's intent to act on information but may not correlate with the benefit gained from a particular source.
Conclusions: There are substantial racial/ethnic differences in perceptions of certain medical information sources. Medical information designed for minority populations may be more effective if disseminated through particular sources.