Designing e-health interventions for low-health-literate culturally diverse parents: addressing the obesity epidemic

Telemed J E Health. 2009 Sep;15(7):672-7. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2009.0012.


Child and adolescent obesity is a significant problem contributing to long-term trends in adult obesity. Educating parents about strategies for raising healthy children is complicated by the problem of low health literacy. E-health provides new opportunities to educate lowhealth-literate audiences, and this project was intended as formative research to guide design of interventions for low-health-literate parents. Focus groups were conducted with African American, Hispanic, and white parents (n = 43), 18 years of age or older, and at or below median income for the region. Each focus group included the following: a discussion of parents' general use of the Internet for health information, the demonstration of a Web site designed specifically for low-health-literate users, and asking participants about ideas under consideration for future interventions. Participants use search engines to look for health information and use heuristics, such as position in search results, to evaluate Web site quality. Some participants avoid information from .edu and .gov domains due to perceived complexity, and there was an almost-universal lack of trust in the government for health information. University researchers, by contrast, were trusted sources as information providers. Content and usability that meet the needs of extremely low-literate audiences may be perceived as slow and lacking depth by more literate and Internet-savvy users. E-health can be used to educate low-health-literate audiences, but interventions designed for these users must be layered in terms of content and usability to meet varying levels of functional and media literacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Culture*
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Educational Status
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Parents*
  • Psychometrics
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States / epidemiology