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Use of information and communication technology to provide health information: what do older migrants know, and what do they need to know?

BackgroundGovernments and businesses are increasingly using the internet and mobile telephones to disseminate information about services and products. However, not all population groups have the resources and capabilities to support equality of access to and use of these technologies. While Australia’s ageing population receives attention in a wide variety of literatures, the ageing migrant population has received very little attention in relation to understanding their place in the ‘digital divide’. It is not known how this group gathers information used in everyday living, or what role the internet or mobile phones plays within this. At a time when the population is ageing and there is an increasing use of the internet to deliver services and information, there is little research on the effects of ethnicity, migration, socio-economic status, education or gender of older people on the use of information and communication technology (ICT). Addressing this should be a priority in Australia, which has an old and ageing population that includes many post-war migrants from non- English speaking European countries. AimsTo analyse the views of older migrants living in South Australia with respect to their current information sources, their use of ICT and any barriers and enablers to future use of ICT for accessing health information.MethodsA qualitative study employing eight focus groups involving 43 older Italian and Greek migrants living in the community in metropolitan or regional settings in South Australia. Interviews were held and audio-recorded and the English language components transcribed. Transcriptions were analysed manually using a grounded theory  approach. ResultsOlder migrants do not use ICT to a great extent to access information in their everyday lives, with many expressing no interest in learning how to do so. However, they access the information they need to function in society with a desired quality of life from multiple sources by various means. Sources include electronic and print media from Australia and their home countries, family and acquaintances, government departments or service providers. Many expressed a preference for receiving information as printed material or directly from another person.DiscussionGovernments or primary healthcare organisations planning to make health information solely available via ICT should be aware that doing so may lead to an increase in ‘information exclusion’ and the formation of functional knowledge deficits for older migrants. At the moment at least, our participants do not perceive any functional knowledge deficits as they engage multiple sources to access the information they need for everyday life. We recommend that governments and healthcare organisations evaluate the appropriateness of using ICT to directly provide information to oldermigrants and consider non-digital means or the engagement of ‘information brokers’ when communicating with groups identified as low or non-users of ICT.


Ken Goodall, Paul Ward, Lareen Newman

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