An examination into audience targeting and the use of storytelling or statistical evidence on breast cancer websites

Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media, Michigan State University, USA.
Patient Education and Counseling (Impact Factor: 2.2). 02/2011; 85(2):e59-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.01.008
Source: PubMed


This research sought to address the presence of information targeting low literacy, racially diverse, non-English speaking, and age diverse audiences on breast cancer websites. In addition, this study documented the utilization of evidence strategies, either statistics or storytelling, for these audiences.
This research examined these relationships on 157 breast cancer websites through content analysis.
Nearly half of websites did not contain any of the elements targeting diverse literacy, racial/ethnic, language, and age audiences. Websites with multiple languages were more likely than monolingual websites to use statistics, and websites with low literacy sections were less likely than others to do so. Websites with ethnic or racial diversity and age diversity were more likely than other websites to use first person storytelling about breast cancer.
Current breast cancer websites demonstrate promising use of targeting specific audiences and employing evidence strategies prescribed as effective by past research, however there is room for improvement.
Tip sheets for incorporating audience targeting, readability, and storytelling should be created for health organizations to use in the process of developing their websites, as these constructs were found only sparingly on the assessed sites.

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    ABSTRACT: Health websites are used frequently, but there are many concerns about their value as information sources. Additionally, there are numerous personal barriers that prevent individuals from wholly benefitting from them. In order to assess the quality of health websites and their accessibility to users, we created tools based on previous research that examine design aspects, information validity, motivational health content and literacy content. To test these tools, we examined 155 breast cancer websites and created scores for each assessment tool to describe the percent of constructs on the average website. Results demonstrated that websites performed best on the design tool followed by the information validity, motivational health content and literacy assessment tools. The average website contained the majority of the design and information validity constructs, but only about a third of the motivational health or literacy constructs. Multiple items from the motivational health content and literacy assessment tools were not found on any of the websites, and many were only represented on a handful of sites. Overall, the assessment tools were useful in evaluating the quality of websites, and could serve as valuable resources for health website developers in the future.
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