Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 122–128 | Cite as

Digital Divide: Variation in Internet and Cellular Phone Use among Women Attending an Urban Sexually Transmitted Infections Clinic

  • Lipika SamalEmail author
  • Heidi E. Hutton
  • Emily J. Erbelding
  • Elizabeth S. Brandon
  • Joseph Finkelstein
  • Geetanjali Chander


We sought to describe: (1) the prevalence of internet, cellular phone, and text message use among women attending an urban sexually transmitted infections (STI) clinic, (2) the acceptability of health advice by each mode of information and communication technology (ICT), and (3) demographic characteristics associated with ICT use. This study is a cross-sectional survey of 200 English-speaking women presenting to a Baltimore City STI clinic with STI complaints. Participants completed a self-administered survey querying ICT use and demographic characteristics. Three separate questions asked about interest in receiving health advice delivered by the three modalities: internet, cellular phone, and text message. We performed logistic regression to examine how demographic factors (age, race, and education) are associated with likelihood of using each modality. The median age of respondents was 27 years; 87% were African American, and 71% had a high school diploma. The rate of any internet use was 80%; 31% reported daily use; 16% reported weekly use; and 32% reported less frequent use. Almost all respondents (93%) reported cellular phone use, and 79% used text messaging. Acceptability of health advice by each of the three modalities was about 60%. In multivariate analysis, higher education and younger age were associated with internet use, text messaging, and cellular phone use. Overall rate of internet use was high, but there was an educational disparity in internet use. Cellular phone use was almost universal in this sample. All three modalities were equally acceptable forms of health communication. Describing baseline ICT access and the acceptability of health advice via ICT, as we have done, is one step toward determining the feasibility of ICT-delivered health interventions in urban populations.


Women’s Health Internet use Cellular phone SMS Text message Sexually transmitted infections 



We would like to acknowledge the assistance of clinical informationist Blair Anton, MLIS, MS, at the Welch Medical Library of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

A poster based on this study was presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, May 13–16, 2009, Miami Beach, FL.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lipika Samal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heidi E. Hutton
    • 1
  • Emily J. Erbelding
    • 1
  • Elizabeth S. Brandon
    • 1
  • Joseph Finkelstein
    • 1
  • Geetanjali Chander
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of General Internal MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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