Differential access to digital communication technology: association with health and health survey recruitment within an African-American underserviced urban population

J Urban Health. 2011 Jun;88(3):479-92. doi: 10.1007/s11524-010-9533-6.


Digital communication technologies (DCT), such as cell phones and the internet, have begun to replace more traditional technologies even in technology-poor communities. We characterized access to DCT in an underserved urban population and whether access is associated with health and study participation. A general probability community sample and a purposive high-turnover housing sample were recruited and re-interviewed after 3 months. Selected characteristics were compared by sample type and retention. Associations between DCT access and self-reported health were examined using multivariable logistic regression. Of 363 eligible individuals, 184 (general community = 119; high-turnover housing = 65) completed the baseline survey. Eighty-four percent of respondents had a cell phone and 62% had ever texted. Ever use of the internet was high (69%) overall, but frequency and years of internet use were higher in the general community sample. Self-reported fair or poor health was more common for residents of cell phone-only households and those with less frequent internet use. Technology use was similar for those retained and not retained. Overall, access to DCT was high in this underserved urban population but varied by sample type. Health varied significantly by DCT use, but study retention did not. These data have implications for incorporating DCT into health-related research in urban populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cell Phone / trends
  • Chicago
  • Epidemiologic Research Design
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internet / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Dynamics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult