Physical activity and individuals with spinal cord injury: accuracy and quality of information on the Internet
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BACKGROUND: A number of websites on the Internet promote health-enhancing behaviors among people with spinal cord injury (SCI). However, the information available is of unknown accuracy and quality. OBJECTIVE: To examine the accuracy, quality, and targeting strategies used in online physical activity (PA) information aimed at people with SCI. METHODS: A purposive sample of 30 frequently accessed websites for individuals with SCI that included PA information was examined. Websites were evaluated based on their descriptive characteristics, level of accuracy in relation to newly defined PA recommendations for people with SCI, technical and theoretical quality (i.e., use of behavioral theories) characteristics, and targeting strategies to promote PA among people with SCI. Descriptive statistics were utilized to illustrate the results of the evaluation. RESULTS: PA information was easily accessible, as rated by the number of clicks required to access information. Only 6 websites (20%) provided specific PA recommendations and these websites exhibited low accuracy. Technically, websites were of high quality with a mean score of 4.1 of a possible 6 points. In contrast, websites had a low level of theoretical quality, with 23 of the 30 websites (77%) scoring below 9 of a possible 14 points (i.e., 64% of a perfect score) for theoretical content. A majority of websites evaluated did not use cognitive (e.g., self-efficacy, self-talk, and perceived social norms) and behavioral (e.g., self-monitoring, motivational readiness, and realistic goal-setting) strategies in their messages. A majority (80%) of the evaluated websites customized information for persons with different injury levels and completeness. Less than half of the websites evaluated tailored PA information toward people at different stages of their injury rehabilitation (37%) or for their caregivers (30%). CONCLUSION: Accuracy and theoretical quality of PA information presented to people with SCI on the Internet may not be optimal. Websites should be improved to incorporate accepted PA recommendations and behavioral theory to better deliver health messages about PA.
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