Evaluation of the breastfeeding web pages at Healthtalkonline
Start date: 13 November 2013
Background: There are more than 70 000 websites disseminating health information (1), with a growing number focusing on maternity care issues, including breast-feeding. However, the quality of online information is quite variable (2). Healthtalkonline is one of the better quality sites providing an evidenced-based set of web pages on breastfeeding based on Bournemouth University (BU) research (3). Since its start in 2007 the number of visitors has risen steadily and at the time of the survey late 2012-early 2013 the DIPEx webmaster reported: “… around 37,000 hits on our breastfeeding section each month, and around 1,500 individuals.” The problem with clicks on web pages is that it suggests interest but do not constitute evidence of changing knowledge or behaviour. Aim: To ascertain the impact of the Healthtalkonline site we conducted an online questionnaire survey of users of the breastfeeding web pages between Nov. 2012- Mar. 2013. Design: An online questionnaire study was designed and administered after ethical approval had been granted by BU Research Ethics Committee. The sample was one of convenience. Information about the survey was circulated through user forums, email databases and through the web site itself. The target population was women, midwives and other health professionals, and educators. Participants received information about the survey and consented by clicking on the link to start. Simple descriptive statistics were used to summarise the data.
Results: The survey was completed by 159 people, mainly from the UK, but also from other parts of the world such as Australia and New Zealand (12.6%) and the USA/Canada (2.5%). Most users were very positive about the quality and coverage of the information on the breastfeeding web pages, 97.4% considered the web pages helpful. Indeed 32.7% had recommended, and a further 65.4% would recommend, the web pages to someone else. Recommendations were to a wide-range of people including: ‘Our Plunket nurse in NZ’; ‘Parents, nurses, other health practitioners, hairdressers (as the font of all community wisdom)’; ‘A friend expecting twins’; ‘relative’; and ‘will be directing parents who use the Children's Centre to it’. More importantly, responses demonstrated changes in users’ behaviour or attitudes: 7.7% of respondents had decided to continue breastfeeding or start breastfeeding after visiting Healthtalkonline website. In addition, more than half of all respondents (58.1%) stated that they would pass on some of the practical advice offered to other women. Implications: The findings suggest that online information can have an impact not only on knowledge but also on behaviour.