we understand the potential of the Internet and other computer applications for health communication with and among diverse populations.
The phenomenal increase in use of the Internet for health information can be attributed to many factors, several of which have particular implications for health communication for diverse audiences. Among the most important is the short time available for the health encounter (now averaging 15 minutes or less) and the increased attention to informed decision making. In the United States and most Western countries, concerns about health care costs have led to increased emphasis on the health of populations and on prevention (Eysenbach and Kohler, 2001). Many people seek health advice via the Internet to supplement their physicians’ advice (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2000b; Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health, 1999), but there is little evidence that the Internet is replacing physician advice. In a diverse sample of Californians, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, physicians were the most common source of health information among both Internet users and nonusers. The Internet was the fifth most common source of health information, behind family/friends and various print media (Pennbridge, Moya, and Rodriguez, 1999).
By 2001, about 64 percent of U.S. Internet users said they had used the Internet for health information (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2002). Over time, all population groups have shown a steady increase in the use of computers for health information, and this trend is likely to increase. A recent Pew Report (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2000b) found that those seeking health information on the Internet were more likely to be members of minority groups and to have low incomes than those who use the Internet for other reasons. More than 40 percent said the information they found during their most recent search affected their health-related decisions. Half the people who sought health infor-