Health Information Seeking

February 28, 2013

Authors: J. David Johnson and Donald O. Case
Edition: First
Publisher: Peter Lang
Pages: 4
Price: £92.00 and £24.00
ISBN: 9781433118258 and 18241

This scholarly work looks at how we seek out and understand information about our health and well-being in the age of the internet. It presents an alternative view on healthcare communication by arguing that the day of the mass public health campaign to improve the health of the nation may be over, overtaken by the advent of the World Wide Web and the ability of individuals to seek health information for themselves. The authors argue that in an increasingly complex globalised world, we should be seeking to help patients access, sift and make sense of information effectively, while at the same time ensuring that such information is intelligible and available to the public.

The day of the mass public health campaign to improve the health of the nation may be over, overtaken by the advent of the World Wide Web

“The bio-medical view of communication primarily as a vehicle for transferring authoritative knowledge to compliant patients,” as the authors describe it, has been superseded by a shift in society that has resulted in the patient becoming the consumer, rather than the passive recipient of healthcare information. David Johnson and Donald Case make the case for information-seeking and facilitation being placed at the heart of good health and well-being.

Their book also presents a more expansive model for understanding what health and well-being mean in the society of today where, as the authors note, only about half of Americans receive the healthcare that they need.

Written with a strong US focus, this informative book is well grounded in the literature and sheds light on an expanding and interesting subject that charts the changing patient role in an increasingly neoliberal society.

It offers an overview of the types of information available and how people access them, the models used to organise and understand health information-seeking and the psychosocial issues underpinning communication theory in healthcare. It ends with a pragmatic section on seeking information which I particularly liked.

Who is it for?
This book provides a refreshing and evidence-based synopsis of the importance of health information in an age of information overload. It would be of particular interest to health communication students and academics as well as those working in the fields of public health, health informatics, health psychology and health promotion.

Some chapters are more accessible than others, but in the main it is well written and presented. It covers a broad spectrum of research and scholarship that caters for a range of readers.

Would you recommend it?
Yes, as a comprehensive account of a field that is swiftly emerging and growing in importance.

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