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Hispanic adults vary widely in their reported trust of health information sources, suggesting that information tailored to specific ethnic subgroups and targeted by age group may be beneficial, according to results of a study by SUNY Downstate Assistant Professor Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD. The study is highlighted in the July 2020 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Hispanics comprise the largest ethnic minority in the United States, with significant disparities in cancer risk and survival, both between Hispanic Americans and whites, and among Hispanic subgroups.
"Lack of knowledge about cancer services, exacerbated by relatively limited access to those services, is considered a major contributor to those disparities. Our aim was to assess trust in health information across various sources and evaluate how that trust may vary by gender, age, ethnic background, and socioeconomic background."
Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD, Study's Lead Author, Assistant Professor, SUNY Downstate School of Public Health Department of Community Health Sciences
Dr. Camacho-Rivera and colleagues examined data from the National Cancer Institute's Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), a nationally representative data collection program. HINTS oversamples African-American and Hispanic households using U.S. Census data. The study reflects data from 1,521 people, 46 percent of whom were Mexican or Mexican American; 16 percent were Cuban or Puerto Rican; and 37 percent were of other Hispanic backgrounds.
Respondents reported the highest levels of trust in healthcare professionals, with 91 percent saying they had a high level of trust. The next most trusted sources were government health agencies (68 percent), the Internet (63 percent), and charitable organizations (53 percent).
"The findings of this study will help to narrow the racial disparities that minority communities continue to experience," said SUNY Downstate School of Public Health dean Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D. "Although many health messaging sources are identified by the Latino community as trustworthy, targeting those that are most reliable to disseminate appropriate health messages, and educating the community to focus on those health messaging sources, are likely to have the highest impact on reducing health disparities".
Dr. Camacho-Rivera notes that 84 percent of the Hispanic population is now routinely using the Internet, but they are more likely than whites to lose Internet access due to cost, and more likely to report frustration in their information-seeking.
"As a Latina, I want fellow Hispanics to know that not all health information may be credible and evidence-based," Dr. Camacho-Rivera said. "It is important to ask questions of healthcare providers in order to make informed decisions."
Camacho-Rivera said the results of the study indicate that the Hispanic community would benefit from culturally-tailored health information to narrow health disparities in cancer and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
"While we have seen increases in health information-seeking due to increased access to the Internet, smartphones, and social media, we also recognize the potential for technology to exacerbate health disparities," she continued. "It is not enough for us to simply put out tailored information and expect individuals to act on it; we must also support community spaces, public health programs, and social policies that can help people benefit from the information."
Camacho-Rivera, M., et al. (2020) Heterogeneity in Trust of Cancer Information among Hispanic Adults in the United States: An Analysis of the Health Information National Trends Survey. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-19-1375.