The role of health literacy in the evaluation of online health information

Consumers of online health information often do not question the quality of what they find online and tend to evaluate the information based on criteria not recognized by existing web quality guidelines. People with low health literacy, in particular, use less established criteria and rely more heavily on non-established ones compared to those with high health literacy. These are the main findings of a mixed-methods study recently published in Patient Education and Counseling by Nicola Diviani, Bas van den Putte, Corine Meppelink, and Julia van Weert. The study is part of a larger project financed by a personal grant awarded to Nicola Diviani by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Data was collected through in-depth qualitative interviews and questionnaires among a sample of 44 Italian-speaking Swiss residents.  Based on these results, the authors call for communication and patient education efforts aimed at raising awareness on the issue of online health information quality and at promoting use of established evaluation criteria, especially among low health literate citizens.

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