Developing health information literacy in disengaged at-risk populations: insights to inform interventions

Steven Buchanan, Emma Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: to advance our understanding of the challenges of health information literacy education in disengaged at-risk populations; and from the perspective of professionals out with information professions occupying everyday support roles.

Design/methodology: qualitative in-depth case study. Our participants were a team of UK Family Nurses providing outreach support to young expectant mothers from areas of multiple deprivations, and the mothers themselves. Our data collection methods were observation, survey, interviews, and focus groups.

Findings: information needs of mothers are multiple, and not always recognised as information problems, or revealed. Several felt overwhelmed, and actively avoided health information. There is low awareness and/or use of state sources of online health information. Family nurses provide an important information intermediary role, but are unfamiliar with information literacy (IL) concepts and models; consequently, there is limited evidence of client transitions to independent information seeking, or underpinning pedagogical practices to achieve such goals.

Research limitations/implications: further research is required into appropriate pedagogical approaches to IL education adaptable to semi-structured everyday situations. Recognition of information need requires particular attention, including methods of elicitation and specification in the problematic context.
Practical implications: in an era of digital transitions and public service reforms, we raise important questions regarding the true reach of Public Health policy.

Originality/value: holistically examining nurse-client information behaviours; extends discussion of low IL in nurses beyond issues of evidence based practice, to issues of developing healthcare self-efficacy in at-risk clients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-189
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2019


  • information literacy
  • health information literacy
  • information behavior
  • information intermediary
  • mothers


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