Living Well: WWW: World Wide What?

Reprinted from PN October 2001
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You'd think people with spinal-cord injuries (SCIs) would be busily surfing the Web, looking for information about the latest in SCI research, medical equipment, sports, health issues, etc. However, according to a recent Craig Hospital survey, this doesn't appear to be the case. Only 44% of the SCI survivors who own computers have used the Internet to find SCI-related information.

In our survey of just people with SCI, three-quarters of those responding own computers—considerably more than in the general and disability populations.

Which people with SCI are most likely to be Internet users? In our study, it appears there isn't a big difference between the sexes. Computer ownership is about equal, and only about 8% more males with SCI access the Internet than do females. In the general population, Internet use is about the same between men and women.

Regardless of their sex, people with SCI use the Internet for health-related information much more than do individuals who are able-bodied. About a third of the SCI group uses the Internet one to three times a month for health or medical information; the general population spends only half that time looking for such knowledge.

Health-related information sought by people with SCI includes, not surprisingly, SCI topics as well asdrug treatments, medical equipment and supplies, sports information, and research. Other online activities our survey participants report include e-mailing, conducting business or financial transactions, searching for information for work or school, and shopping.

Since people with SCI use the Internet to find medical news and late-breaking research, it's good to remember to make sure the sources are accurate. Most able-bodied Internet users believe the information they get online is reliable, but that doesn't make it so! Maybe the fact that only about one-third of those SCI survivors participating in our survey report they are satisfied with the quality of information they find on the Internet tells us they're on to something. Whether it's the quantity, quality, or the accessibility of the information that's troublesome, that remaining two-thirds of people with SCI seems to know that Web information—despite all of its promise for the future—still needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

No Web police, Web professors, or Web grammarians are making sure only high quality, credible, accurate, and well-written information makes its way to your computer screen. That, unfortunately, is entirely up to you.

It's good to remind yourself that the World Wide Web (WWW) is not the only source of information out there. Not all people with SCI own, like, and trust computers. This means researchers, clinicians, and healthcare providers cannot yet assume that everyone has Internet access. They need to continue providing their information to consumers with SCI in other formats as well.

But this works two ways. Not all researchers, physicians, and others studying and treating SCI use the Internet, either. Very good information is still available in textbooks, medical journals, pamphlets, and from the experts themselves.

Don't assume everything worth knowing has to—or ought to—be on the Internet, and don?t overlook the many alternate formats of health information out there!

Hang Pham-Bowman and David Weitzenkamp work in the Research Department at Craig Hospital. This article was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The opinions here are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education. For more information about this and other research projects at Craig Hospital, contact: Research Department, Craig Hospital, 3425 South Clarkson Street, Englewood, CO 80110. (303) 789-8308 /


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Living Well: WWW: World Wide What?


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