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 cancer field.
"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 cancer."
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.