National Survey Data Released for Analysis:
How Americans Seek and Use Cancer Information
The continuing expansion and development of information delivery systems has given people access to cancer information from numerous sources, each varying substantially in quality and reliability. We know that people's prior knowledge, beliefs, and experiences influence the way they interpret and use health information and that America's increasing cultural diversity challenges health communication activities. Yet, until now, we've known little about how people seek cancer information or how to bridge the substantial gaps between the information they want and need, and what they receive.
Today, NCI unveils the first dataset from our Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). The first survey of its kind, HINTS collects nationally representative data on the American public's need for, access to, and use of cancer information. The data identify changing communication trends and practices; provide updates on changing information patterns, needs, and opportunities; assess cancer information access and usage; and provide insight about how cancer risks are perceived. The survey began in 2001 and is conducted every two years.
Over the last several months, NCI behavioral and communication scientists have taken a first look at the HINTS dataset and are exploring several important questions that will better equip us to achieve NCI's goal of reducing the suffering and death due to cancer by 2015. They are investigating issues such as the perceived credibility of information sources, perceptions of cancer risks, information factors influencing screening practices, fatalism about cancer prevention, and factors that influence awareness of NCI's Cancer Information Service.
We invite members of our research community to delve into the data and help us learn how people seek and use cancer information. Visit http://cancer.gov/hints to register, download, and use the data.
While this message conveys our excitement about the HINTS data release, we understand that data analyses are only a first step in using the survey to its fullest potential. We look forward to helping communication practitioners learn more about what HINTS tells us about information-seeking behaviors and how together we can use that knowledge to inform our activities. In both research and practice, cancer communications remains a high priority at NCI.
This guest editorial was written by Dr. Robert T. Croyle, Director,