Low Income Adults Access to Technology

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esearch Brief Assessment of Low-Income Adults’ Access to Technology: Implications for Nutrition Education Lauren M. Neuenschwander, MS, RD1; Angela Abbott, MA, RD, CD1; Amy R. Mobley, PhD, RD2,y ABSTRACT

Objective: The main objective of this study was to investigate access and use of technologies such as the Internet among Indiana’s low-income population. The secondary objective was to determine whether access and use of computers significantly differed by age, race, and/or education level. Methods: Data were collected from low-income adult Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education participants for a 2-year period using a cross-sectional questionnaire about access and use of technology. Results: Approximately 50% of the total respondents (n ¼ 1,620) indicated that they had a working computer in their home, and of those, the majority (78%) had a high-speed Internet connection. Chi-square analysis revealed that younger adults who were white and had more education were more likely to have a computer (P < .001) and Internet. Conclusions and Implications: The results of this study provide evidence that using Internet-based nutrition education in a low-income population is a viable and possibly cost-effective option. Key Words: Internet, low-income, technology, computers, nutrition education (J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012;44:60-65.)

The Internet is becoming the preferred way for consumers to quickly get health information.1 In 2004, a survey done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that over half of those surveyed said they sought out ‘‘information about diet, nutrition, vitamins, or nutritional supplements’’ online.2 Access to and use of the Internet has historically varied depending on one's sex, ethnicity, education level, and socioeconomic status.3 This differential access, often referred to as the ‘‘digital divide,’’ appears to be decreasing, and those who do not access the Internet are considered an ‘‘ever-shrinking minority.’’2 In 2000, it was reported that Internet penetration rose across all income levels, and the fastest growth was in lower-income groups.4

The Diffusion Theory provides insight into the adoption pattern of innovations such as computer and/or Internet use. Using a normal bell curve (frequency) pattern to explain adoption of innovations, it is expected that once 14%-34% of a society has adopted a technology, the rest of the population will soon follow.5 When using an S-shaped curve to describe the cumulative number of adopters of an innovation, once 10%-20% of a population has adopted an innovation, it may be considered impossible to stop further diffusion of that innovation.6 In the United States (US), if Internet access rates are on the rise among the low-income population, it is important to investigate the potential use of the Internet and other technologies for nutrition education purposes within this population.

Purdue University Extension, West Lafayette, IN Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT † Dr. Amy R. Mobley was affiliated with the Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University at the time this study was completed. Address for correspondence: Amy R. Mobley, PhD, RD, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, 3624 Horsebarn Road Ext., U-4017, Storrs, CT 06269-4017; Phone: (860) 486-3633; Fax: (860) 486-3674; E-mail: amy.mobley@uconn.edu Ó2012 SOCIETY FOR NUTRITION EDUCATION AND BEHAVIOR doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2011.01.004 2


Previous studies investigating access to the Internet have not focused on 1 particular group, but instead on a whole population. There is limited, if any, peer-reviewed research related to Web-based nutrition education for low-income populations. In 2005, a study by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Nutrition Education Program found that of their population with computer access, 65%-68% of the participants were interested in accessing health and nutrition information...
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