Graduation Date

Summer 8-14-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research

First Advisor

Denise H. Britigan, PhD, MA, CHES

Second Advisor

Dejun Su, PhD


The purpose of this research is to explore how application of social location theory may improve data collection on health information access in order to better inform and improve the effectiveness of health communication and messaging. This dissertation proposes a framework to understand how people obtain health information based on the idea of social location, Ritzer and Bell’s (1981) levels of social reality, and Dahlberg & Krug’s (2002) social ecological model. This research addressed the extent to which three studies of health information access support the use of such a framework, and if so, how its application could improve our understanding of access to health information, and correspondingly, our methods of health communication.

The first study examined the Douglas County Community Health Survey, a population-based telephone survey of 1,503 respondents ages 18 and older living in Douglas County, Nebraska in 2013. This study assessed how elements of social location influence respondents’ primary health information source and the number of health information sources used.

The second study drew on the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth to examine sources of sex education (formal, parents, and doctor) and topics covered with each source (abstinence, STDs, and contraception) among a nationally-representative sample of 15-24 year-old male and female respondents.

The third study looked at data from an online survey of 757 LGBTQ adults in the state of Nebraska. Demographic characteristics, health care access, minority status, outness to health care provider, personal autonomy, and discrimination experience were compared among participants who did or did not report seeking health information online.

Finally, the results of the three studies were synthesized into a Social Location Framework. This framework provides a visual representation of how elements of social location relate to each other and collectively contribute to health information access, and provides for identification of potential gaps in the measurement of access to health information.