BETHESDA, MarylandA national survey, now in progress, will enable the
National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the first time to examine the
interrelationship of people’s knowledge about cancer, their sources of cancer
information, and their cancer-related behavior. The Health Information
National Trends Survey (HINTS), a telephone survey of 8,000 randomly
selected, representative US adults, began in late October. Data collection is
expected to take 5 months.
A major aim of the survey is to make NCI’s dissemination of information
about cancer more effective as a means of reducing the nation’s cancer
mortality and morbidity. "This is one of the most important activities we
have launched because we have never had national data on which to plan
communication efforts," said Barbara Rimer, DrPH, director of NCI’s Division
of Cancer Control and Population Studies.
Compared with a decade ago, people have more sources of information about
cancer, particularly with the advent of the Internet’s World Wide Web.
NCI intends the HINTS data to serve both as a source of needed information
and as a baseline for the future. The Institute plans to conduct similar
surveys every 2 years, albeit with a different sample of individuals for each
survey, and to share its findings widely with other organizations in the
"With all the changes going on in communications, particularly in the last
5 or 6 years, we want a baseline," said project leader David E. Nelson, MD,
of the Division of Cancer Control’s Health Communications and Informatics
Research Branch. "Where are we right now? Where do people go for cancer
information; whom do they trust? We want to track this over time to determine
if we are getting better in terms of people’s awareness and knowledge about
Besides establishing baseline data about cancer communication sources,
people’s preferences, and their knowledge about the disease, HINTS will help
NCI hone its communication priorities, build evidence-based strategies to
communicate more effectively, and monitor the effects of its efforts.