HOW MUCH KNOWLEDGE CAN THEY GAIN? WOMEN’S INFORMATION BEHAVIOR ON GOVERNMENT HEALTH WEBSITES IN THE CONTEXT OF HIV/AIDS PREVENTION

Open Access
Author:
Chong, Jing
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
February 26, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Lynette Kvasny, Dissertation Advisor
  • Lynette Kvasny, Committee Chair
  • Eileen M Trauth, Committee Member
  • Madhu Reddy, Committee Member
  • Roxanne Louise Parrott, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • eHealth
  • information behavior
  • gender studies
  • health communication
  • health education
  • HIV/AIDS
Abstract:
Women in the U.S. and all over the world are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because of both behavioral and contextual factors. HIV/AIDS prevention education on government health websites plays an important role in reducing this health inequality for women. However, contrary to the assumption of Rimal and Real’s (2003) Risk Perception Attitude framework, women may not necessarily gain knowledge from the HIV/AIDS prevention information available to them on government health websites if they cannot find the information or do not like what they find. Using a theoretical framework extended from Rimal and Real’s (2003) Risk Perception Attitude framework, this research examines women’s information behavior, specifically information finding and reaction to information, on government health websites in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention. In the empirical study, think aloud and structured individual interview were used to collect data from 40 female university students in the U.S. in their completion of an information seeking task and an interview. Factors that influence women’s information finding are concerned with information accessibility, including visibility, duplication, depth, retrievability and name of links. Factors that influence women’s reaction to information are concerned with information format and information content. The influencing factors concerning information format include language, interactivity, media use, and aesthetics. The influencing factors concerning information content include information quality, social construction, and perceived relevance. These influencing factors of information finding and reaction to information are potential barriers that could limit the knowledge women could gain from the HIV/AIDS prevention information on government health websites. This research is among the few studies that specifically examines women’s information behavior on government health websites in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention. It has both theoretical and practical contributions. Theoretically, it challenges and extends Rimal and Real’s (2003) Risk Perception Attitude framework by proposing an Extended Risk Perception Attitude framework. This research also exemplifies Gupta’s (2000) categories of social construction of gender and sexuality in the HIV/AIDS discourse, and adds new evidence that proves their validity. In addition, this research enriches the literature in health-related information behavior by switching the research focus to other information behaviors than information seeking. Practically, this research provides recommendations to website designers on how to design HIV/AIDS prevention information for women that is more accessible, user-friendly, reliable, empowering and relevant.