Who are Adolescents Talking to?: Understanding who Adolescents in Appalachia Talk with about Health

Co-Authors: Johnson, Kiana R., PhD, MSEd, MPH & Wood, David L., MD, MPH

Health disparities within Appalachian are not a new concept or challenge for the region, and the medical community, public health officials, and Appalachian scholars continue to look for ways to both understand the complex reasons behind the disparities and improve the health of people within the region. One challenge in Appalachia is how people obtain health information. Previous research shows adults in Appalachia tend to rely on friends and family instead of health care professionals for health information and advice, which contributes to the lack of health knowledge in the region; however, research is lacking on who adolescents in Appalachia discuss matters of health. One avenue to improving health in Appalachia may come from understanding with whom adolescents in Appalachia discuss matters of health and developing interventions around that information. From October 2016 through March 2017 the authors surveyed 829 11th and 12th students in three counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia regarding health and health care access. The authors specifically asked adolescents with whom they discuss health and health risks behaviors like weight, exercise, and alcohol use. Chi-squared tests were performed to examine differences among reports of where adolescents seek information. Results of the analyses revealed that adolescents do not tend report discussing health matters with health care professionals. Additionally sex differences were observed among adolescents seeking health information.