Chinese College Students’ Health Information Seeking Behavior

My research collaborator, Dr. Yanxia Shi, from Shanxi University in China and I have been working on a project (funded by the National Social Science Fund of China) that looks at the role of libraries in contributing to the enhancement of the citizenry’s health information literacy. We recently published a paper in the Journal of Academic Librarianship that examined how Chinese college students seek health information and what the implications are for academic librarians. The impetus for us to study college students came from a tragic incident – in 2016, Zexi Wei, a 21-year old Chinese college student died after receiving experimental treatment for synovial sarcoma at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps. He learned about this treatment from a promoted result on the Chinese search engine Baidu (the equivalent of Google in China), and ultimately discovered that the hospital had misled patients by providing fraudulent information about the treatment’s success rate. Wei’s death prompted Chinese regulators to investigate Baidu’s advertising practices, and drew widespread attention from the public about the ill-regulated practices of online dissemination of health information.

This tragedy has made us more vigilant about the ubiquity of questionable medical/health information in Chinese cyberspace, and caused us to wonder – how do Chinese college students seek health information? What are the criteria they use to evaluate the information? What can academic libraries do to help them become more information literate and health literate? Our findings were quite illuminating, and now that more and more Chinese students are coming to study in the US as international students, I think this study might yield insights for academic librarians here in the US to improve their programs and services for Chinese international students.

Elsevier (the publisher of JAL) is allowing free access to our article till Mar 14, 2019 – so feel free to check it out if interested. 🙂

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