Parents' health information seeking behaviour – does the child's health status play a role?
Background: Digital media are increasingly abundant, providing a wide scope of health information. To date, very little is known about parental health information seeking behaviour for child health outside of English-speaking and Nordic countries. Our study "Digital parental counsellors" examines how parents search for health information in digital media, print media and among "personal contacts", distinguishing between the search for information about general child health and development and
... d development and child's acute illness, and comparing information seeking behaviour by disability status of the child. Methods: The population-based sample consisted of 769 parents with children aged 0-2 in the German-speaking region of Switzerland returning the study questionnaire (30% response rate). We developed a frequency score of use of different information sources and conducted bivariate and multivariate linear regression analyses to describe parental search behaviour and the association with child's disability status. Results: The sample consists of 88% mothers (mean age: 35.7 years SD 4.33). Children's mean age is 16 months (SD 7.1), 49% of the children are female and 6% have a disability. Parents use digital media significantly more frequently to search for information about general health and development questions than about an acute child's illness (p<0.001). In case of acute child's illness, parents refer to their paediatrician, family members and other personal contacts significantly more frequently than other information sources (p<0.001). The use of digital media and "personal contacts" does not significantly vary between parents with and without a disabled child, whereas the use of print media does (p<0.02). Moreover, irrespective of disability, 45% of parents resort to the Internet prior to a paediatric visit and 27% after a visit when a visit did not answer all questions. Conclusions: Despite the high prevalence of digital media, personal contacts are still the most frequent health information resource for parents with young children, irrespective of the child's health. Parents combine all information resources (online, print, personal network) to improve their understanding or check the validity of information received regarding their child's health. It is thus of utmost importance, that the increasingly accessed digital information parents search for is correct, understandable and addresses parent's concerns.