Introduction: Technology may increase the availability of health information and enable health promoting behaviors. However, lack of access to and use of technology may also exacerbate disparities, particularly in rural communities with limited Internet access.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare Internet access, device ownership, and use of technology for health between Appalachian Kentuckians and the general U.S. population.
Methods: Findings from the 2017 Assessing the Health Status of Kentucky (ASK) survey were compared to national estimates from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 5, Cycle 1 (2017), with a particular focus on degree of rurality. ASK and HINTS respondent sociodemographics, Internet access, and use of technology for health were assessed using weighted percentages; chi-square P-values were calculated based on weighted counts.
Results: Over 80% of both populations reported accessing the Internet. However, Appalachian Kentuckians across all geographic strata were significantly less likely to access the Internet through broadband, cellular networks, and Wi-Fi. The U.S. population reported greater electronic device ownership rates. Appalachian Kentuckians were significantly more likely to search for cancer information online compared to national estimates. The majority of both populations reported not having health apps on their smartphones or tablets. Appalachian Kentuckians reported significantly lower rates of using electronic media to exchange information with health professionals.
Implications: Ensuring high-speed Internet access among Appalachian Kentuckians could help this population leverage available technology to overcome barriers to care and reduce health disparities – for example, by enabling the use of health-related apps or electronic means to remotely communicate with providers. Such technologies have the potential to improve the health of medically underserved populations and deserve further attention.
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Vanderpool RC, Stradtman LR, Gaysynsky A, Chen Q, Johnson M, Huang B. Access to and Use of Technology for Health: Comparisons Between Appalachian Kentuckians and the General U.S. Population. J Appalach Health 2021;3(4):60–73. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0304.06