Increasing numbers of adults in the United States of America (USA) are seeking and using health information within their medical encounters. The theory of uncertainty management suggests that patients reduce health care uncertainty by increasing their understanding of disease etiology or treatment options, improving patient-doctor communication, and enhancing knowledge of disease self-management through health information seeking. However, research shows racial and ethnic minorities are less likely than Whites to seek health information and use it in their physician visits. How racial and ethnic minorities use health information outside of their medical encounters is unknown. In this study we used data from the 2007 USA Health Tracking Household survey, a nationally-representative survey of civilian, non-institutionalized Americans (n=12,549). Using logistic regression we found African Americans were no different from Whites in seeking health information and using it when they talked with their doctors. Latinos were significantly less likely than Whites to seek health information and less likely to use it when they talked with their doctors. But, among those who sought health information, African Americans and Latinos were significantly more likely than Whites to use health information to change their approach to maintaining their health and better understand how to treat illnesses. Also, education significantly moderated the relationship between race/ethnicity and health information seeking. However, results were mixed for education as a moderator in the relationship between race/ethnicity and health information use. Future research should focus on interventions to improve how African Americans and Latinos interface with providers and ensure that health information sought and used outside of their medical encounters augments treatment protocols. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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