A survey of health information source use in rural communities identifies complex health literacy barriers

Health Info Libr J. 2021 Feb 22. doi: 10.1111/hir.12364. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Access to health information is critical for good health. However, residents of rural communities may face more difficulties in accessing health information than residents in rural areas. Problems may be structural, socio-economic and cultural.

Objectives: The study assessed sources and challenges concerning health information access and use among residents of five rural communities in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Methods: Descriptive survey design was adopted, and data were elicited from forty respondents through focus group discussions (FGD). Elicited data were thematically analysed.

Results: Several informal and primary information sources were often used. Residents used the radio to access health information, and they also visited hospitals/health centres, asked doctors, participated in health sensitisation programmes and consulted traditional herbalists. However, the barriers included financial problems, infrastructure problems (bad road network, unreliable electricity supplies), living far from health centres and finding suitable health information in their own language. These are individual and systemic/structural challenges.

Discussion: The focus group participants were aware of the importance of reliable health information sources, but often had to use a mixture of sources. Traditional herbalists were valued sources (more available and affordable). Health literacy problems concern education and language.

Conclusions: Service provision could be improved to make health information more efficient and effective for rural communities, by building on what works (e.g. health sensitisation programmes, radio programmes providing health education) and providing more multi-lingual services. The study also confirmed the importance of evaluating traditional herbal medicine.

Keywords: Africa,west; consumer health information; demography; health education; health literacy; information-seeking behaviour; mass media.