Accessibility and Usability of Healthcare Information

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TOPIC: Accessibility and Usability of Healthcare Information and its impact on the Morbidity rate in West Africa.

Accessing information in developing countries is challenging for people living in rural areas. Many rural areas in these countries are without electricity supply and many of the residents are not literate. In addition, many of these rural areas are remote and do not have good roads. These constraints mean that their access to social amenities like healthcare is limited. Healthcare information is particularly important because health is wealth. Healthy rural dwellers will be able to provide a means of livelihood for their families, though they often rely on rudimentary methods. This then means that if rural dwellers can be empowered to access health-related information and practices, they can participate in social development and nation-building, and this can potentially help to reduce the wide margin between rural and urban dwellers.

Health workers are faced with huge difficulties with regards to reaching these rural people, and some of the reasons include challenging factors such as poor road network, lack of electricity, language barrier, remoteness, cultural/religious beliefs, etc. In many cases, health workers and authorities rely on mass media for the transmission of health information. Modern-day technologies like smart phones, tablets, and the Internet could serve as great tools for reaching rural dwellers but there is need for infrastructural development and support. The medical expert-to-rural patient ratios are extremely low as there are limited experts, if any, in most rural areas to attend to patients. For the small fraction of rural communities that are reached, the usability of the information provided is often discouraging. In many instances, health information is inappropriately utilized because of the following reasons: low literacy level, lack of infrastructure, little or no support, poverty, religious/cultural beliefs, and so on.

Rural areas in West Africa constitute a larger percentage of the population of people whose healthcare information needs are not adequately met, and consequently they have not been able to receive excellent healthcare service delivery. Manzvanzvike (1993) and Rosenberg (1993) submit that there are information dissemination problems in rural Africa, affecting the accessibility of such information, and this has the potential to impact on the quality of life of the people living in those areas. This may explain why various socio-economic programmes initiated by government at various levels in countries like Nigeria are often unsuccessful in rural areas. Diso (2005) observed that rural communities in Nigeria are the majority in terms of population, yet most neglected in terms of access to social infrastructure (Hart et al 2005). According to Phillips (2006), the quality of life is a multifaceted phenomenon determined by the cumulative and interactive impacts of numerous and varied factors such as access to information and usability, among other things. Equity and justice requires that information (healthcare, security, etc.) be adequately accessed and usable by all sections of the society irrespective of race, religion, culture, social, economic, and political differences.

Access to information and usability, are not only important but also imperative for development and healthy living of all societies. Freedom and accessibility of healthcare information are essential for development, representing a first step in any participatory approach to human and societal development (Okiy, 2003). Rural populations in Nigeria are faced with considerable challenges in today’s rapidly changing technological, economic and socio-political world. The Nigerian government at national, states and local council levels, as well as the private sector have initiated various activities to help strengthen rural communities. Many of these initiatives...
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