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Local touchscreen computer kiosks can help parents in urban, low-income communities learn about their child's health

Parents in urban, low-income communities can learn about their child's health by using touchscreen computer kiosks placed in public settings such as the local library or a McDonald's restaurant, concludes a new study. When parents entered the age of their child, they were presented with age-appropriate modules containing prevention information and screening tools.

Half (52 percent) of the kiosk sessions identified at-risk children, such as those with uncontrolled asthma, and 87 percent of first-time kiosk users who completed the asthma assessment had children whose asthma was uncontrolled. Of parents who responded to the exit survey at the end of the kiosk session, 48 percent had less than a high school education, and 26 percent had never used the Internet.

Nevertheless, over half of parents found the computer kiosk easy to use (57 percent) and the information easy to understand (55 percent); 66 percent said there was at least some new information; 55 percent of parents planned to try some of the prevention recommendations they had learned; and 49 percent intended to talk to their child's doctor about what they had learned.

The findings were based on use of three touchscreen computer kiosks at sites in low-income urban neighborhoods in Seattle. The kiosks included 14 modules. Ten focused on prevention and safety, including television/media, gun injuries, bicycle injuries, car crashes, tobacco smoke exposure, flu shots, sudden infant death syndrome prevention, house fires, Head Start, and scald burn prevention.

Three modules were screening tools for developmental delay, tuberculosis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The final module was a symptom assessment tool for children with asthma. In total, parents completed 1,846 kiosk sessions, with nearly half of the sessions taking place at McDonald's.

The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13302).

More details are in "Parent use of touchscreen computer kiosks for child health promotion in community settings," by Darcy A. Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., Paula Lozano, M.D., M.P.H., and Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., in the March 2007 Pediatrics 119, pp. 427-434.

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