Guest Update by Dr. Robert Croyle
Health Information National Trends Survey Web Site Unveiled
At this time last year, we made public our dataset from the first-ever survey to collect nationally representative information on the American public's need for, access to, and use of cancer information. Since then, more than 100 researchers have delved into the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to analyze how people use mass media, new media such as the Internet, and personal channels for health information purposes, and how the use of those communication channels may impact their knowledge and acceptance of healthy living guidelines.
Today, I am pleased to announce that a new HINTS Web site (http://hints.cancer.gov) expands access to HINTS data for multiple audiences, using tables, charts, population estimates, and technical history information on every question in the survey. The updated Web site reflects NCI's commitment to public data sharing by making the science of cancer communication easily accessible to multiple audiences. The new tools within the site were developed with extensive input from federal and private partners in cancer communication research and practice.
With the new Web tools, it is now possible for a public health or communication practitioner to look up answers to individual survey questions to learn, for example, how concerned the American public might be about detecting colon cancer. They can also learn, for example, how much attention people say they pay to different health communication channels such as the Internet. The site will not only provide users with accurate, weighted population data directly from the survey to address those questions, but it also will provide users with charts and graphs for copying into reports and presentations. Cancer control scientists can use the site to check the accuracy of their own calculations and obtain information concerning the origin and development of each survey question.
In addition to the new Web tool, it is important to note that research using HINTS is still underway. Last month, we hosted our first HINTS data users conference to discuss findings and to set the stage for HINTS II, which will begin data collection next week. The first analysis using HINTS data was published in this month's issue of Preventive Medicine. Investigators examined survey responses to assess prevalence of self-reported prostate-specific antigen (PSA) use and its association with patients' information seeking and decision making. The authors looked at HINTS data from 927 males aged 50 and over who had no history of prostate cancer, with consideration of respondents' attention to health information, cancer-information seeking behavior, and perceptions of health care providers' communication styles. The study revealed that men aged 65-74 who have college degrees and who reported regularly seeking and paying attention to health information were more likely to report receiving a PSA screening recommendation from their physicians.
Dr. Bradford W. Hesse, acting chief of NCI's Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, has led a great team of HINTS investigators within and outside NCI. His efforts are integral to the success of the project.
HINTS provides an invaluable snapshot of how adults use the many information resources around them to lead healthier lives. We look forward to continued collaboration with researchers and practitioners to use HINTS to inform our cancer communication strategies to accelerate progress in reducing the burden of cancer in America.