Taking a Hint on Health Behaviors from Data, new HINTS Data is Up!

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By Steven Randazzo | On Thu, 08/23/2012 - 9:39am

Below is a guest post by Brian P. Keefe, Cancer Research Training Award Fellow, National Cancer Institute.

Do you need a hint regarding the health behaviors, beliefs, and knowledge of the American public? The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) collects data on how Americans use, interact with, and understand health information, and assesses health-related attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors. In particular, this national survey focuses on how adults aged 18 years and older use differing communication channels to obtain health information for themselves and loved ones.  The newest HINTS dataset and supporting documents, released last week, are currently available for download on the HINTS website.

NCI Research Psychologist and HINTS Data Coordinator, Dr. Rick Moser notes that, "HINTS is a valuable tool that can be used by researchers and policy makers to better understand the ever-changing health information landscape in the United States."

HINTS data are unique in that they provide evidence to demonstrate the relationship between communication and health behavior. HINTS:

  • Provides updates on changing patterns and information opportunities in health;
  • Identifies changing communication trends and practices;
  • Assesses cancer information access and usage;
  • Provides information about how cancer risks are perceived; and
  • Offers a platform for researchers to examine new theories in health communication.

HINTS data can be filtered to analyze health behavior of certain populations, based on ethnicity, age, income, and other characteristics. For those who may not perform their own data analysis, NCI also publishes regular HINTS Briefs on their website that provide a snapshot of important data points and relationships.

Some of the newer HINTS releases include the following: 

  • HINTS Puerto Rico – For the first time ever, there are now HINTS data for Puerto Rico. Analyze the health communication patterns in Puerto Rico and see how they differ from the mainland United States.
  • 2011 HINTS Data – New data from HINTS examine communication patterns related to cancer, internet use, nutrition and physical activity, skin protection, and a variety of other health topics. 

For developers, the release of new HINTS data means a better understanding of how individuals obtain health information and their corresponding behaviors.  HINTS data are ripe for data mashups. HINTS data could also be integrated into existing applications to build a more robust database, such as incorporating HINTS nutrition and physical activity data into a fitness application.  Overall, developers should consider tapping into HINTS data to inform how they develop web and other health applications for the American public.

More data are featured on HealthData.gov than ever before! As more data are released and updated, HealthData.gov will remain one of the main sources of open health data.

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