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Professor Publishes Article in ‘Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication’

02.14.2013

High Point University professor Sojung KimHIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 14, 2013 – Dr. Sojung Claire Kim, assistant professor of Strategic Communication at High Point University, recently published an article in the “Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication” – one of the top journals in the field of communication based on its impact factor.

The article, titled “Predictors of Online Health Information Seeking Among Women with Breast Cancer: The Role of Social Support Perception and Emotional Well-Being,” details a study that was designed to investigate the role of social support perception and emotional well-being on online information seeking among cancer patients within the context of a well-established online cancer communication intervention.

“According to recent information from the American Cancer Society, nearly 200,000 women were diagnosed with and more than 40,000 women died from breast cancer in 2010,” Kim says. “This ranks breast cancer the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. For individuals contending with the disease, breast cancer diagnosis and its subsequent treatments are physically, mentally, and emotionally painful and traumatic experiences.”

Kim explains, “As technology rapidly improves, many individuals with health problems turn to the Internet to seek out relevant health information as an active coping strategy. Limited attention, however, has been paid to ‘psychosocial characteristics’ of patients that would influence such information seeking behaviors. Research needs to examine the psychosocial factors that encourage cancer patients to seek out information about their diseases. Previous research has been hindered by an overreliance on self-reported measures of information seeking and processing, which are susceptible to social desirability concerns as well as recall problems.”

This study addresses both of these limitations. It focuses on two key psychosocial factors thought to shape communicative behaviors: perceived social support and emotional well-being. These factors are expected, individually and in combination, to influence the seeking of breast cancer information. The study examines these relationships using measures of “actual” online health information seeking among breast cancer patients within an interactive cancer communication intervention. The goal of this work is to gain a better understanding of the role of different psychosocial factors in explaining the nature of online information seeking behaviors in terms of both“content” and “form.”

The study found that breast cancer patients with low levels of social support perception were likely to seek out different types of health information online to cope with their lack of social support. Moreover, breast cancer patients sought out cancer related information most when they had high levels of emotional well-being and low levels of social support perception, while they used cancer related information services least when they had both high levels of emotional well-being and social support perception. It seems that if cancer patients have high emotional well-being about their current health condition, what matters the most when determining their information seeking behaviors is whether they feel they have enough social support. Those with low perceived social support actively seek out all the possible cancer-related information to compensate for deficiency in social networks, whereas those with high perceived social support become the least likely to seek information. This finding supports the view that the more patients perceive that they receive social support from others – and the information flows that accompany it – the less likely they themselves are to seek out information about their illness.

This scholarly work, which is being built upon in a collaborative effort, will allow undergraduates and graduates at High Point University to better understand the important roles of evaluative research in health communication campaigns and interventions.

“I strongly believe that research and teaching can be complementary,” Kim explains. “I teach Social Science Research Methods and Strategic Communication Campaigns to both undergraduate and graduate students at HPU.  When I teach students with examples from my own research, they get more engaged and relate to class materials better.”

Kim continues saying, “health is everybody’s concern. If students can understand the importance of service customization in health campaigns and interventions, they can create a good campaign and intervention that will serve the greater good.”

The paper was co-authored by an interdisciplinary team of colleagues from prestigious institutions such as University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Kentucky.

To view Kim’s article, please visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12002/abstract.

Dr. Kim welcomes any collaboration opportunities with other scholars who are also interested in investigating the dynamics and effects of interactive health communication campaigns.

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