The public's access to health information on the Internet has been acclaimed as a revolution in health, empowering individuals to gain health knowledge by actively seeking information online. But recent scholarship has identified health scanning, a more passive exposure to health information on the Internet, as more common among online users than active health seeking. Health scanning suggests a different model of individuals gaining health knowledge through expert sources that provide health news. The present dissertation proposes a model of interactive agenda-building to explore the interaction of online health scanners, news media and originating sources of news. The theoretical basis of the model is agenda setting/agenda building and organizational social identity theory. Two studies test the interactive agenda-building model. Study 1 involved a survey of over 1,300 users of a consumer health Web site. Key findings were that online users prefer public, private and academic sources, rather than private-sector sources or personal, non-expert sources. Study 2 encompassed content analysis of articles from four mainstream news media Web sites that were listed on user-generated most-viewed and most-emailed lists. Originating sources within each article were categorized as personal or institutional, and institutional sources were further categorized as public, private, nonprofit or academic. Findings show online users consistently chose health news in which institutional sources were more prevalent than individual, and private-sector sources were more prevalent than public, nonprofit or academic sources. The contrast of online user preferences from Study 1 and online health news prevalence of private sources suggests the health consumer revolution has not yet evolved.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2011. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Brian Southwell, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 115 pages, appendices A-B.
Where is the revolution? Health news on the Internet: Online user preferences and their contrasts with prevalence of private-sector originating sources..
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