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Original Research

Internet connectivity among rural Alabama veterans: baseline findings from the Alabama Veterans Rural Health Initiative Project

Submitted: 13 March 2012
Revised: 18 August 2012
Accepted: 20 August 2012
Published: 21 January 2013

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Author(s) : Allen RS, Guadagno RE, Parmelee P, Minney JA, Hilgeman MM, Tabb KD, McNeal SF, Houston T, Kertesz S, Davis L.

Rebecca AllenJessy MinneyLori Davis

Citation: Allen RS, Guadagno RE, Parmelee P, Minney JA, Hilgeman MM, Tabb KD, McNeal SF, Houston T, Kertesz S, Davis L.  Internet connectivity among rural Alabama veterans: baseline findings from the Alabama Veterans Rural Health Initiative Project. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2013; 13: 2138. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=2138 (Accessed 22 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  The purpose of this secondary data analysis was to characterize the Internet usage of rural veterans (n=201) who had either never enrolled, or had previously enrolled but not accessed, Veterans Affairs (VA) health services in at least 2 years. The VA Office of Rural Health (ORH)(ie part of the United States Government Department of Veterans Affairs) is a government agency with the mission to improve access and quality of care for enrolled rural and highly rural US veterans. The ORH seeks to use evidence-based policies and innovative practices to support the unique needs of enrolled veterans residing in geographically remote areas. These individuals represent a population considered to experience health disparities secondary to reduced health care access.
Methods:  This study explored the role of the Internet in providing health information and information regarding VA services to rural Caucasian and African American veterans in the southeastern USA. African Americans were significantly younger (50.32 years, SD=13.50, range 22–85 years) than Caucasian rural veterans (58.50 years, SD=13.82, range 21–85 years).
Results:  A small majority of veterans (n=107; 53.23%) reported ‘going on-line to use the Internet or World Wide Web, or to send and receive e-mail’. Among Internet users, multivariate logistic regression showed that neither age nor race/ethnicity predicted using the Internet to access health information or information regarding VA services.
Conclusion:  In comparison with population norms, rural veterans displayed lower usage of the Internet; however, there were few practical age differences between young, middle-aged and older rural veterans in use of the Internet for seeking health information. These results suggest a tremendous potential for online outreach efforts to rural veterans seeking health information and information regarding VA services and benefits. The US Federal Government’s VA Office of Rural Health is investing in technology-based services and will need to disseminate information regarding the availability of these services to rural veterans.

Key words: aging, healthcare disparities, internet, rural population, USA, veterans’ health.

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