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Health information: a case of saturation or 57 channels and nothing on?

By Sandy Whitelaw

Abstract

The claim is made by many that we have reached a point where we are exposed to too much information. This potential phenomenon is particularly prominent in the health field where there is a suggestion that the volume of available information has increased significantly and more importantly that such volume has had detrimental effects on both the overall quality of such information and the ability of people to process and use it. This paper explores the nature and validity of these claims.\ud Within the context of the notion of an `information society', it outlines a range of concerns that have been expressed in relation to this increase, including the simple problem of overload, the potential for less robust information to enter the system and thus the overall quality of available information to decline. This excess of information is seen to act against the benefits that are sought — information can be invalid and people may not have time to reflect and act on excessive information loads. This can result in irrationality or disinformation.<p></p>\ud \ud The suggestion is made, however, that these concerns are largely unsupported by empirical evidence and are potentially the basis of a panic over the entry of alternative perspectives on health. The pessimistic perspectives are thus balanced by more constructive and optimistic views on this growth and opening up of information production and potential consumption. Seeing information creation as organic and pluralistic, it is suggested that increased information volume can actually be a constructive phenomenon.<p></p>\ud \ud The paper concludes with the contention that it is unrealistic to expect a return to former circumstances of controlled and limited information flows. Rather, a series of more pragmatic suggestions is offered within existing circumstances, including differentiating between information rich and poor health areas, addressing structural issues like information access and health literacy, and working towards organizing health information so that it is of a high quality, is physically accessible, relevant to the needs and literacy of groups, and in a usable form

Topics: H1
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.gla.ac.uk:44634
Provided by: Enlighten
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