The second Australian Child Health Poll has found that Dr Google is a popular source of information for Australian parents worried about their children’s health, but it is not one they trust.
The second Australian Child Health Poll reveals that three in five parents used websites, blogs and online forums to get child health information in the last six months – but a surprising 30 per cent did not trust them at all.
Some of the key findings show that:
- More than 60 per cent of parents used websites, blogs and online forums to get child health information in the last six months – but a surprising 30 per cent did not trust them at all.
- The poll also found that nearly 50% of Australian parents report using a hospital, including emergency departments, for health advice in the past six months.
- More parents reported using the school teacher and the pharmacist for child health advice than a paediatrician or telephone advice helpline.
- Alternative health therapists, social media and celebrities are among the sources most frequently reported as rarely or never used and not at all trusted by parents.
- General practitioners are the child health information source most commonly identified as used and trusted a lot by Australian parents, with 90% having used their GP for child health advice in the last six months and three out of four reporting they trust them a lot.
Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes, said the survey had revealed a “trust deficit” as Australian parents try to navigate their way through a complex landscape of child health information.
“This poll shows us for the first time that Australian parents are using sources of child health information that they just don’t trust. This means that in seeking to better inform themselves about their kids’ health, parents may be consuming so much information that, ultimately, they become more worried and confused.
“The question for the health care sector is, what happens as a result of this trust deficit?
“One of the most startling figures in these results is that 50 per cent of parents used a hospital, including emergency departments (ED), for child health advice in the past six months.
“Hospital EDs are highly trusted, but they are not the best place for the care of children with lower acuity conditions, who will typically face long wait times as critical patients are treated first.”
Dr Rhodes said the second Australian Child Health Poll suggested some solutions to help bridge the trust deficit by focusing on the provision of credible, accurate and consistent information at the sources most commonly used by parents.
These include pharmacists, who ranked third most used and fifth most trusted of all sources included in the survey; and school teachers, who were used as a source of child health information in the past six months by nearly 50 per cent of parents.
Helping parents to evaluate the trustworthiness of online child health information sites, and doing more to promote awareness of those sites that contain independent, authoritative child health care information, would also help.
“Pharmacists are high profile and readily accessible in local communities, so it’s not surprising that they figure so prominently in these results. Independent, authoritative information about child health distributed through these businesses would quickly reach the target audience of parents and carers.
“Likewise, our teachers know a lot about our children, but they are not medical professionals, so investment in providing child health information through our schools would be very sensible.”
Dr Rhodes said the poll results showed that Australian parents were savvy consumers when it came to seeking reliable information about their children’s health, with celebrities and social media the worst performing information sources in terms of trust.
“GPs, who emerged as the most trusted and most used source of child health information, could play an important role in helping families to evaluate and assess information obtained online.
“The poll tells us that 90 per cent of parents have a GP who provides health care to their child, but while almost two thirds of parents ‘sometimes’ discuss information they’ve found online with their GP, another 20 per cent almost never do so,” Dr Rhodes said.
“Creating space in a consultation to talk to parents in a non-judgemental way about information they’ve found online, or via any other sources, could really help to give parents confidence in their own judgement.
“It’s also a good opportunity for a GP to recommend online sites that are credible and accurate, but which parents might not know about,” Dr Rhodes said.
Poll questions coming soon.
In the meantime, you can email email@example.com
In the news
Sydney Morning Herald
The Courier Mail
Information for parents
Read Dr Anthea Rhodes’ blog on navigating the net: Finding trustworthy health information online