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April 17, 2003

Residents In East Baltimore’s Empowerment Zone Use Internet as a Health Information Resource

While only 25 percent of people living in East Baltimore’s Empowerment Zone use the Internet, 71 percent of Internet users reported using the Internet to find health information, according to a survey conducted by investigators from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who worked with members of the community. Empowerment Zones were created by the federal government in an effort to renew distressed urban communities through economic growth and investment. The survey’s findings could help planners meet the health information needs of the Empowerment Zone community.

“Census figures show that only about 25 percent of families earning less than $15,000 use the Internet, compared to 57 percent for families earning $35,000 to $49,999,” explained David Laflamme, PhD, MPH, author of the survey and a graduate student at the School of Public Health. He completed the survey as part of his graduate dissertation. “While a digital divide certainly exists, our survey suggests that lower income Internet users in the East Baltimore Empowerment Zone seek online health information as much as average Internet users, who tend to have a higher income.”

Ninety-eight percent of online health seekers surveyed found the health information useful, and 75 percent of those searching for health information for themselves said it affected their decisions about health treatments or the way they take care of themselves. Ninety percent of Internet users said that getting health information online has improved the way they take care of their health, while 72 percent said that the information they found online led them to ask a doctor new questions or to get a second opinion from another physician.

Among the individuals who did not use the Internet but expressed a desire to do so, 60 percent indicated they would use the Internet for general information seeking. Forty-seven percent said they would use it to gain job skills, 36 percent to seek health information, 28 percent to send and receive email, and 20 percent would use it to play games.

Community groups and residents within the East Baltimore Empowerment Zone are encouraged to contact the study director at (443) 255-4171 for further information or to arrange a presentation. The East Baltimore Internet Health Survey was conducted May through July, 2002.

The East Baltimore Internet Health Survey was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation through a grant to the Maryland Center for Arts and Technology (MCAT). The East Baltimore Empowerment Zone is the target area of the $5 million Hewlett-Packard funded Digital Village Project led by MCAT.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu