Digital Divide and Stability of Access in African American Women Visiting Urban Public Health Centers

This exploratory study examines access to communication technologies, its association with health-related variables and study attrition, and its stability over time in a study of lower income African American women visiting urban public health centers. Participants (n = 1,227) provided information about cancer-related behaviors in a baseline questionnaire that also assessed their e-mail and cell phone/pager access. Interviews conducted at 1-, 6-, and 18-month follow up determined attrition, and an e-mail message sent to participants at 6-month follow up determined stability of access. Fewer than 10% of women reported e-mail access; 26% reported cell/phone pager access. At 6-month follow up, 45% of e-mail accounts were inactive; accounts from pay access providers were more likely to be inactive than work- or school-based accounts (58% versus 25%). Cell phone/pager access was positively associated with mammography knowledge. Attrition rates were lower among women with access than among those without access. Priorities for future research based on these preliminary findings are discussed.