Purpose: Because rural residents, particularly those near mining sites, are susceptible to numerous environmental health hazards, it is important to gain deeper insights into their use and trust of health information, which they may employ to help recognize symptoms, learn ways to reduce exposure, or find health care. Methods: We surveyed residents (N = 101) of rural Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia to assess predictors of health information source use and trust. A project manager administered face-to-face paper and pencil questionnaires assessing demographics, health status, smoking behavior, and health information use and source trust. Bivariate correlations and ordinary least squares regressions were used to analyze the data. Findings: The data suggest that rural individuals frequently use nurses, doctors, and websites to seek health information, whereas traditional media are often not their preferred channel for health information. Media sources were not found as trustworthy as interpersonal and medical health information sources. While only 13.0% of individuals in the sample said they ever turned to county or state health departments for health information, these sources were trusted more than any media source and more than friends. Moreover, living closer to active mining sites—meaning these individuals are at a higher risk of environmental health hazards—predicted even less use of traditional media and greater trust in peer sources. Conclusions: Not all sources of health information are equally used or trusted by individuals from a rural disparities population. The findings have implications for health campaign message dissemination and intervention designs targeting individuals in rural Appalachia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health