A Survey of the Needs and Utilization of Health Information among Young Adults in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Author:Adeyoyin, Samuel Olu


It is recognised that young people experience difficulties in accessing mainstream health services, particularly because of the stigma associated with certain health conditions like mental health, early pregnancy and Hormone Infection Virus/Acquired Immunisation Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (Horgan and Sweeney, 2010). Potential solution is to use media resources offering information and support for health problems. Young adults' access to health information is a function of their ability to search for and find answers to their health related questions. Media resources like television (TV), radio, newspapers, magazines, video, electronic readers and Internet can be valuable sources of health information that can help youth understand their health issues.

Information is the first step to every healthy choice. This requires full access to information about the human body, their workings in health and illness, and the services available in treatment and care, support and cooperation (Gann, 1986). Health information has been described as information on a continuum between health education and health promotion. Therefore, access to health information contributes to health education and promotes healthy lifestyle choices. Rolinson (1998) noted that advocacy for health information was a major shift in philosophy from the treatment of the illness in an individual to the development of a healthy nation of individuals. He noted further that prevention rather than cure had emerged as the way forward for public health and health care for young adults should be provided by the primary health sector. It is imperative that health information for young people be made available on all health issues and not only sexual behaviour and the use of drugs. Health information messages are disseminated to the young adults from many directions, organisations and people, departments of health, health promotion, family planning clinics, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, school nurses, social workers, friends, peer groups and youth organisations. This is done with the use of diverse media which includes magazines, newspapers, television, e-book, e-readers (i phone, i pod and android) and Internet.

In the past, people may call a health professional or friend when they are challenged with health issues. Due to the widening network of both online and off the line sources in diverse medium, people now read blog, listen to radio, TV or podcasts and once they find health information online, they tend to also talk with someone about it offline. Media resources have helped to accelerate the pace of discovery of health issues and sharpen the questions people might ask when they talk to health professionals. Technology can help to enable human connection in health care because it assists people to have the ability of sharing what they are doing or thinking. For example, the use of telemedicine has helped to shape professional ideas among health professionals around the world. Also, the use of computerised equipment such as ECG machine, CT scan and computerised BP analysis have also helped to establish definite diagnosis. Electronic media in particular had helped people in tracking their workout routines, posting reviews of their medical treatments and raising awareness about certain health conditions. For example, the Internet provides access not only to information but to know others with particular health issues. Young adults use media for different purposes in different places. According to Vahlberg (2010) they split their media time among many activities which include social networking, watching video, exchanging instant messages, viewing graphics and photos, listening to music, watching TV, playing games, looking for information and news.

Good health is an indispensable prerequisite for the socio-economic development of any country. At independence, Nigeria inherited from the colonial government a system of health care that stressed purely curative services. Nigerian government later realized that curative services alone were inadequate, so it included curative with preventive services. With the UNICEF/WHO-sponsored "Health for All" declaration of 1978, an integrated, multi-sectoral, and community-based strategy was adopted in the provision of health care services that stressed curative, preventive, promotive and rehabilitative health care services (Bii and Otike, 2003). This approach used by the government in 1978 came to be known as the Primary Health Care (PHC) strategy which relied on awareness creation and sensitisation among the people to facilitate informed decision-making for good health. In other words, proactive provision of appropriate and timely health information was necessary in order to empower the Nigerian citizen, especially young adults, in order to contribute to their health and general well-being.

Health information services are provided in the areas of sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, reproduction and family planning, immunisation, child and maternal care, dental care, accidents and first aid, among others. Health workers also disseminate health information that will provide psychosocial support to individuals, families, or vulnerable populations so they can cope with their health conditions. They also advise family caregivers, counsel patients, and help disseminate health information for patients' needs after discharge from hospitals. Health workers like those involved in social services work for hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, or local governments (U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2011). Young adults belong to the group of active and agile population that needs health information varying from abstinence from sex, reproductive health, disease control and general well being.

Sai (2005) emphasised that health information services to young adults are sometimes inaccurate and such inaccurate information does not provide the needed basis for informed decision making. Such awareness through health information services is also critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal and child mortality as well as reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS among the most vulnerable. Other identified health problems of young adults are diseases, unsafe water and sanitation, inadequate food (nutrition), accidents at home, poor hygiene, reproductive health and immunization. In addition, mental problems, drug/alcohol addiction, cultural practices and untrained practitioners have also been identified as part of health problems of young adults.

Health information needs of young adults as revealed in literature include diseases, water treatment and sanitation, personal and food hygiene, nutrition, reproduction and family planning, child and maternal care, medicines and agrochemicals and accidents and first aid. Also, dental care, immunization, mental health, health care providers, drug and alcohol addiction, physical exercises and trends, for example, in blood transfusion (Mabawonku, 1998; Bii and Otike, 2003).

Electronic revolution has reshaped health information services through the utilisation of health information media to disseminate information on health needs among young adults. Sai (2005) corroborated the fact that ICT has opened the information space for the use of health information media in meeting the health information needs of young adults. Electronic health information resources have been identified as major information resources that attract the attention of the young adults in meeting their health information needs for health care provision and general well-being. Media that aid health information services among young adults include computer systems, CD-ROMs, VCDs, DVDs, scanners, printers, flash, i-pods, mp3-5, global system of mobile telecommunication (GSM) sets, pagers, electronic boards, VCRs, among others.

Health information sources assist in the dissemination of health information to young adults (Bii and Otike, 2003). They inform young adults and provide knowledge about health and general well-being. Health information sources for young adults as revealed by Bii and Otike (2003) are friends, parents, relatives, health care workers, radio, posters and other visual aids, books, religious leaders, newspapers, herbalists, television, magazines, films and video shows, teachers, seminars and workshops. Other sources of information are recorded music and audio recordings, Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and group leaders, drama and plays, leaflets, booklets, pamphlets, demonstrations and exhibitions. In addition, formats of information sources that could be utilised in the health sector include oral or verbal, audio, visual, print or written and multimedia (Njogmeta and Ehikhamenor, 1998; Mabawonku, 1998; Bii and Otike, 2003; Ojedokun, 2007).

Health information needs of young adults could be effectively disseminated through information media, which are materials that hold data in any form or allow data to pass through them. These include transparencies, papers, hard, floppy and optical disks and magnetic tapes, global system of mobile telecommunication (GSM) sets, pagers, electronic boards, computer systems, CD-ROMs, VCDs, DVDs, scanners, printers, flash, i-pods, mp3-5, VCRs, among others. Media is also any form of information that includes music, movies, video tapes, radio, television, cable, Internet and other pre-recorded materials. The content must be relevant or reflective of a particular subject and must be presented in a progressive pattern. The level of the audience or participant is also an important factor to be considered in the choice of media. In other words, health information media that are used to meet health information needs of young adults must be relevant to their age and presented in a manner that would have positive effect on their well-being.

Statement of the Problem

The increasing...

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