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An E-Informed Senior Citizen: Health Information on the Net

Author(s): D. Srivastava*1, S. Diwakar2
Affiliation(s): 1Division of Publications and Information, 2Man Power Development, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
Keywords: Health Information, Elderly, Internet, Informed patient
Background:

While dream to live long is the legitimate right of every citizen, the social and economic implications and humanitarian issues of a growing population of elderly are causing serious concern and require immediate attention from the government and social organizations. In the age of INTERNET, the challenges for an informed senior citizen include literature on different health related problems specially for the elderly, treatment regimen, availability of new drugs, side effects and so on. The medical professionals and the Internet providers in India have never faced such challenges before. This unprecedented incident, heralds in a new era of the informed and e-ready patient. In the long run, this trend will translate into quality improvement and efficiency gains for the system. As we all know, the best way to improve quality and efficiency of the system is competition through informed consumer. In this respect, health literacy, digital divide, the readiness of health care providers and health care system, and the information infrastructure as a whole will be major challenges for policy makers.

Methods:

In the present study, attempt has been made to analyze the hits on topics associated to elderly population from the web pages from India as well as rest of the world. To execute the above, endeavors have been made to explore the availability of information on “health problem” in the field of geriatrics or elderly population. Since the target group of web users were decided to be the elderly adults (not specifically research scientist) all the web pages from research journals or abstracting/indexing services have been excluded. Suggestions have been made to cover subject areas by these services. For collecting hits on world wide web pages search engine ‘Altavista’ as well as ‘Google’ was used. Same query was repeated for each year individually i.e. 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Search results were randomly screened to collect ‘keywords’ related to diseases & problems of elderly population. A set of 25 keywords were identified. For detail analysis of ‘Pages from India, Boolean logic, ‘AND, OR, NOT’ were used to refine and pinpoint the results. Each and every entry in the list was systematically screened for (1) provision of health information, social, psychological (2) evaluated information likely to be accessed by the target population (3) the quality of information against certain criteria for example, by judging the authority of source, usefulness, readability or comprehensiveness of the provided information.

Results/Conclusions:

Disease based search revealed that general well being , in all the years was most favored, along with issue related to HIV/AIDS. (Except the year 2002). Other areas in context of world wide web were Neurological Problems & Alzheimer’s, Nutrition, Skin care. Pages dealing with Tuberculosis also showed an increasing trend. HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, General well being, Diabetes, Health & Hygiene, Alzheimers and Hypertension were the top most areas during all 5years together .Pages from India, revealed that they are concentrating upon few select problem areas like nutrition, (occupying the top most position in five years 51%), Rural population & health, diabetes, Population policy & old age, Hypertension and General well being. Some of the important areas like Neurological Problems, Urinary incontinence or Musculosleeletal issues has not been addressed adequately.

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