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Informal, incidental and ad hoc: the information seeking and learning strategies of health care patients

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Language and Education
Issue number2
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)105-121
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


When people are ill, they want to know what is happening to them and what they can do to get better. Current health policies support patients’ access to health information and encourage them to take part in decisions regarding their health. But little is known about the ways patients learn and difficulties they may encounter in the process.
This paper discusses the information searching and learning strategies of 45 adults living in the north-west of England. At the time of participating in the research, all but two of them were students in adult basic education or English classes. The qualitative interviews revealed a variety of strategies for learning about health and disease, including using the internet and health books and asking others for support.
Learning that was reported was informal and incidental. It was always embedded in the wider activities of dealing with ill health and treatment. Learning could be constrained by a variety of factors including the severity of the illness, the hierarchical nature of the health care context and emotions such as fear. Learning included gaining medical knowledge and learning to engage with specific forms of texts, such as websites. The paper concludes with some comments on the role of adult education classes in supporting learning in the area of health.