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The Digital Divide in Public E-Health: Barriers to Accessibility and Privacy in State Health Department Websites

State health departments have placed a tremendous amount of information, data, and services online in recent years. With the significant increase in online resources at official health sites, though, have come questions concerning equity of access and the confidentiality of electronic medical materials. This paper reports on an examination of public health department websites maintained by the 50 state governments. Using a content analysis of health department sites undertaken each year from 2000 to 2005, we investigate several dimensions of accessibility and privacy: readability levels, disability access, non-English accessibility, and the presence of privacy and security statements. We argue that although progress has been made at improving the accessibility and confidentiality of health department electronic resources, there remains much work to be done to ensure quality access for all Americans in the area of public e health.