According to a recent report by the Pew Internet in American Life project, the internet has become the third most common source of health information for Americans, ranking behind "asking a health professional" and "getting advice from family or friends." The proportion of Americans who use the internet grows every year, and more low income and disadvantaged populations are online than ever before. However, the vast majority of health information sites on the internet are written at a level which requires a high degree of literacy to comprehend. The proposed project will use a user-centered design process to adapt content from the extensive NetWellness.org web site to meet the needs of a disadvantaged, low literacy population. The project will initially target content related to diabetes and hypertension, two health problems with pronounced health disparities. The design process will be informed by established principles of design for reduced literacy populations and focus group input from members of inner city communities. The re-designed content will be tested with a panel survey of a group of potential site users, to establish whether the site meets their needs and is used to make changes in behavior, spur discussion with health care providers, and share with others.
The proposed project is of very high relevance to public health. Providing information in a style and format that reflects community needs and wishes has the potential of reducing the knowledge gap and contributing to healthy decision making. While we understand very well that information by itself cannot solve fundamental health disparities, access to information is a basic building block of improved health for communities.