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Smartphone-Dependents and Designing for Health Literacy

hfonlineHere’s a completely unsurprising fact: Lots of Americans are getting smartphones. According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, almost 2 out of 3 people in the U.S. have one. More interestingly, though, the report revealed that almost 1 in 5 Americans are accessing the internet only via their smartphone — Pew dubs them “smartphone-dependents.”

A little more about the smartphone-dependents: They’re likely to have low household incomes and low levels of education. They’re also likely to be minorities — 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos fell into the smartphone-dependent category. Compare that to just 4% of white Americans.

Does that remind you of any other population we’ve been known to discuss at CommunicateHealth? If you’re thinking of people with limited health literacy skills, you’re correct. And this report tells us that they’re the very same people who may have no choice but to use their smartphones to do important things online — things like, I don’t know, look up health information or shop for health insurance.

This has some serious implications for those of us who work in health communication. It means that we have more of a responsibility than ever to develop our online health information with mobile users in mind — particularly smartphone users. And it should reaffirm our commitment to producing mobile-friendly content that’s grounded in best practices of health literacy.

Because that’s what it’s all about, right? It’s our job to give people exactly the information they need — exactly where they need it.


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