SUNY Downstate Study Finde Wide Variation in Trust of Health Information Sources by Hispanics

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Jul 1, 2020

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Research by Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD, suggests the variation may contribute to disparities in cancer risk and survival

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (July 1, 2020) – Hispanic adults vary widely in their reported trust of health information sources, suggesting that information tailored to specific ethnic subgroups and targeted by age group may be beneficial, according to results of a study by SUNY Downstate Assistant Professor Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD. The study is highlighted in the July 2020 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Hispanics comprise the largest ethnic minority in the United States, with significant disparities in cancer risk and survival, both between Hispanic Americans and whites, and among Hispanic subgroups.

“Lack of knowledge about cancer services, exacerbated by relatively limited access to those services, is considered a major contributor to those disparities,” said the study’s lead author, Marlene Camacho-Rivera, MS, MPH, ScD, assistant professor in the SUNY Downstate School of Public Health Department of Community Health Sciences. “Our aim was to assess trust in health information across various sources and evaluate how that trust may vary by gender, age, ethnic background, and socioeconomic background.”

Dr. Camacho-Rivera and colleagues examined data from the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), a nationally representative data collection program. HINTS oversamples African-American and Hispanic households using U.S. Census data. The study reflects data from 1,521 people, 46 percent of whom were Mexican or Mexican American; 16 percent were Cuban or Puerto Rican; and 37 percent were of other Hispanic backgrounds.

Respondents reported the highest levels of trust in healthcare professionals, with 91 percent saying they had a high level of trust. The next most trusted sources were government health agencies (68 percent), the Internet (63 percent), and charitable organizations (53 percent). 

"The findings of this study will help to narrow the racial disparities that minority communities continue to experience,” said SUNY Downstate School of Public Health dean Kitaw Demissie, M.D., Ph.D. “Although many health messaging sources are identified by the Latino community as trustworthy, targeting those that are most reliable to disseminate appropriate health messages, and educating the community to focus on those health messaging sources, are likely to have the highest impact on reducing health disparities".

Dr. Camacho-Rivera notes that 84 percent of the Hispanic population is now routinely using the Internet, but they are more likely than whites to lose Internet access due to cost, and more likely to report frustration in their information-seeking.

“As a Latina, I want fellow Hispanics to know that not all health information may be credible and evidence-based,” Dr. Camacho-Rivera said. “It is important to ask questions of healthcare providers in order to make informed decisions.”

Camacho-Rivera said the results of the study indicate that the Hispanic community would benefit from culturally-tailored health information to narrow health disparities in cancer and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“While we have seen increases in health information-seeking due to increased access to the Internet, smartphones, and social media, we also recognize the potential for technology to exacerbate health disparities,” she continued. “It is not enough for us to simply put out tailored information and expect individuals to act on it; we must also support community spaces, public health programs, and social policies that can help people benefit from the information.”


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is the borough’s only academic medical center for health education, research, and patient care, and is a 342-bed facility serving the healthcare needs of New York City, and Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents. University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB) is Downstate’s teaching hospital, backed by the expertise of an outstanding medical school and the research facilities of a world-class academic center. More than 800 physicians, representing 53 specialties and subspecialties—many of them ranked as tops in their fields—comprise Downstate's staff.

A regional center for cardiac care, neonatal and high-risk infant services, pediatric dialysis, and transplantation, Downstate also houses a major learning center for children with physical ailments or neurological disorders. In addition to UHB, Downstate comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative, including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @sunydownstate.