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Open Access Research article

Parental use of the Internet to seek health information and primary care utilisation for their child: a cross-sectional study

Gauthier Bouche* and Virginie Migeot

Author Affiliations

Unité d'évaluation médicale, Pôle Pharmacie et Santé Publique, CHU et Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:300  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-300

Published: 28 August 2008

Abstract

Background

Using the Internet to seek health information is becoming more common. Its consequences on health care utilisation are hardly known in the general population, in particular among children whose parents seek health information on the Internet. Our objective was to investigate the relationship between parental use of the Internet to seek health information and primary care utilisation for their child.

Methods

This cross-sectional survey has been carried out in a population of parents of pre-school children in France. The main outcome measure was the self-reported number of primary care consultations for the child, according to parental use of the Internet to seek health information, adjusted for the characteristics of the parents and their child respectively, and parental use of other health information sources.

Results

A total of 1 068 out of 2 197 questionnaires were returned (response rate of 49%). No association was found between parental use of the Internet to seek health information and the number of consultations within the last 12 months for their child. Variables related to the number of primary care consultations were characteristics of the child (age, medical conditions, homeopathic treatment), parental characteristics (occupation, income, stress level) and consultation of other health information sources (advice from pharmacist, relatives).

Conclusion

We did not find any relationship between parental use of the Internet to seek health information and primary care utilisation for children. The Internet seems to be used as a supplement to health services rather than as a replacement.