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Underrepresentation of African Americans in online cancer support groups

Fogel J, Ribisl KM, Morgan PD, Humphreys K, Lyons EJ. Underrepresentation of African Americans in online cancer support groups. Journal of the National Medical Association. 2008 Jun 1; 100(6):705-12.

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The Internet is increasingly important for many cancer survivors because it provides access to the latest information on cancer treatments and also allows them to receive support by participating in online cancer support groups. Unfortunately, little is known about why African-American cancer survivors are underrepresented in online cancer support groups. This article reviews the relevant literature and discusses three possible explanations for why African Americans are underrepresented in online cancer support groups: the digital divide/digital inequality, preferences for face-to-face support or culture-specific online support, and trust concerns. We conclude that a health inequity exists with regard to the utilization of information that can be obtained from online cancer support groups. However, with regard to the potential benefits of the psychosocial and emotional support aspect of online cancer support groups, a health inequity may not exist, as African Americans have other preferred avenues for obtaining needed support, and there is no evidence that this is detrimental to their health.

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