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Understanding and Improving Older Adults E-health Literacy

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Understanding and Improving Older Adults E-health Literacy

Dr. Bo Xie
Dr. Bo Xie


Through an R01 grant from the National Institute on Aging of the NIH, Bo Xie, Assistant Professor, College of Information Studies, is working with the Prince George's County (PGC) Memorial Library System in Maryland and the District of Columbia Public Library System to identify learning styles of older adults. The three-year R01 grant will explore collaborative vs. individualistic learning styles and environments in an attempt to discern optimal ways for helping seniors access reliable health information on the Internet.

The PGC and DC Library Systems both serve a significant number of ethnic minority and lower income households. In previous studies of the PGC library system, Professor Xie found that 66 percent of participants were African Americans/Black, and approximately 20 percent of participants came from households with incomes of less than $20,000 per year.

In this R01 research, Xie (Principal Investigator) and her co-investigators (Co-Is) Professor Greg Hancock from the College of Education and Professor Bonnie Braun from the School of Public Health will test ways of improving older adults’ e-health literacy, or the ability to access, understand, and use electronic health information to inform a health-related decision. These interventions focus on training older adults – who may have more or less prior computer experience – to use NIH online resources for reliable health information. Two learning conditions will be tested: individualistic learning where students learn from an instructor and work individually toward learning goals with little or no interaction with other students, and collaborative learning where students learn from both an instructor and other students and work in small groups toward common goals. The impact of group composition based on prior computer experience (experienced, new, and mixed) as well as length of time after the intervention will also be tested.

The instructional task of this experimental study will involve four weeks of training using the curriculum developed by NIA to learn to use the and web sites to access reliable health information. This study will be conducted in public libraries. By tapping into the well-established public library infrastructure and NIH online resources, this intervention research has great potential for scaling-up and significant social and economic implications.

Health literacy is a critical issue for our rapidly aging population and the results of this grant will help identify better ways to make sure that the older population is informed about how to obtain reliable health information online.

More information about Xie's research
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