Designing ICT-Supported Health Promoting Communication in Primary Health Care

Abstract: Increasing lifestyle-related ill health, escalating health care costs, expanding health inequalities within and between nations, and an aging population are challenges facing governments globally. Governments, especially in industrialized countries like Sweden, are investing in health promotion and health communication, especially in ICT-supported health communication as a way to increase health literacy and empowerment at individual and population levels. Studies show that many eHealth communication efforts are narrow in scope, medical oriented and therefore not enough to address the complexity of lifestyle-related ill health and equity issues. This thesis proposes integrating health promotion values and principles in the design process of eHealth systems for health promotion in order to develop usable, sustainable, engaging, eHealth resources that are adaptable to their context of use and user’s skills. The overall aim of this thesis was study the participatory development process of an interactive ICT-supported health communication channel for health promotion and enhancing health literacy in PHC context. Participatory Action Research (PAR) with a multi-phase and multi-method approach was used in this thesis. A model entitled Spiral Technology Action Research’ (STAR) was used to guide the development of the health channel. This design process was framed in three developmental and evaluation phases corresponding to formative, process and outcome evaluation. A total of 146 participants consisting of professionals from primary health care services, information technology and academia, and local citizens participated in the project’s different phases. A triangulation of methods was used to collect the data; survey, document analysis, participatory observations with field notes, individual interviews, focus groups, think aloud protocols and log statistics. Qualitative and quantitative content analyses were used to analyse data. The results revealed that integrating health promotion values and principles in the design process proved to be valuable not only to the content of the channel, but also in PHC practice. The different design phases yielded valuable results that built into each other and contributed to an eHealth channel that was perceived as relevant to the local people’s need for health communication; accessible and user friendly. The results also indicated that an Internet based interactive health channel, could be a valuable resource for enhancing health literacy if users are involved in the design.