Differences in perceptions of health information between the public and health care professionals: Nonprobability sampling questionnaire survey

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Nour Abed Elhadi Shahbari, Ricky Cohen, Adva Mir Halavi, Rana Hijazi, Galit Paz-Yaakobovitch, Yael Birman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: In the new media age, the public searches for information both online and offline. Many studies have examined how the public reads and understands this information but very few investigate how people assess the quality of journalistic articles as opposed to information generated by health professionals. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine how public health care workers (HCWs) and the general public seek, read and understand health information and to investigate the criteria by which they assess the quality of journalistic articles. Methods: A Web-based nonprobability sampling questionnaire survey was distributed to Israeli HCWs and members of the public via 3 social media outlets: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. A total of 979 respondents participated in the online survey via the Qualtrics XM platform. Results: The findings indicate that HCWs find academic articles more reliable than do members of the general public (44.4% and 28.4%, respectively, P<.001). Within each group, we found disparities between the places where people search for information and the sources they consider reliable. HCWs consider academic articles to be the most reliable, yet these are not their main information sources. In addition, HCWs often use social networks to search for information (18.2%, P<.001), despite considering them very unreliable (only 2.2% found them reliable, P<.001). The same paradoxes were found among the general public, where 37.5% (P<. 001) seek information via social networks yet only 8.4% (P<.001) find them reliable. Out of 6 quality criteria, 4 were important both to HCWs and to the general public. Conclusions: In the new media age where information is accessible to all, the quality of articles about health is of critical importance. It is important that the criteria examined in this research become the norm in health writing for all stakeholders who write about health, whether they are professional journalists or citizen journalists writing in the new media.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14105
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Linda Tizek, Maximilian Schielein, Melvin Ruth, Sonja Stander, Manuel Pedro Pereira, Bernadette Eberlein, Tilo Biedermann, Alexander Zink. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 14.07.2019.


  • Health information-seeking
  • Journalistic articles
  • Public healthcare workers and the general public
  • Quality criteria for health journalists
  • Reading and understanding
  • Web-based and newspaper health information sources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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