TitleChallenges in Reach with Online Sexual Health Information Among African American Youth: Assessing Access and Engagement
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsDolcini, MM, Catania, JA, Cotto-Negrón, C, Canchola, JA, Warren, J, Ashworth, C, Harper, GW, Towner, S
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Pagination12 - 21
Date Published03/2019

There is a need for sexual health promotion among African American youth. The internet is an efficient means of delivering sexual health information (SHI). However, there may be disparities that reduce internet reach to low-income African American youth. The present mixed-methods study analyzed data from the U.S. Current Population Survey (national household sample; ages 14–17) and the Two-Cities Study (Chicago, San Francisco; low-income African Americans, ages 15–17) to examine internet reach, defined as access and engagement. We found that nationally, in-home internet access and cell/smartphone ownership varied by income and race/ethnicity. In-home internet access (52%) and cell/smartphone ownership (75%) were lowest among low-income African American youth. Access from other locations (e.g., libraries, schools) was also quite low. The Two-Cities Study showed that internet access and site engagement were limited by site blocking, poor privacy, affordability, and trust. Youths’ trust in SHI was conditional on their ability to authenticate SHI websites. Our study suggests that there is limited reach into African American and low-income groups, which may be addressed by decreasing internet blocking, enhancing privacy, and supporting community programs and policies to facilitate internet access. Trust in sexual health websites may be increased through directed engagement and authentication by health experts. Without higher levels of access and implementation of strategies to enhance engagement, the potential of the internet as a vehicle for sexual health promotion among African American youth will not be realized.

Short TitleSex Res Soc Policy