School of Communication and the Arts


Doctor of Philosophy in Communication (PhD)


Angela Widgeon


health communication, health literacy, communication inequality, case study




This case study examines Somalian refugees who have sought health information from a trusted source and how it affected their health decision. Health literacy, the ability to find, understand, and use health information and make health decisions, is an understood barrier to achieving optimal health. Social determinants affect an individual’s ability to access and appropriately use the information for decision-making. The communication inequality theory states that health disparities occur when communication inequalities transpire across the communication continuum, and inequitable access to learning manifests within specific individuals or groups. Research data was collected using a sociodemographic and SNS use questionnaire and interviews. The findings were analyzed using a spiral analysis process. Data analysis determined four themes and eight subthemes answering the CRQ and SRQs. Information access, information processing, source trust, and decision-making themes guided the research findings and implications. This study showed that those with more education and who were proficient in English had more access to mediating communication factors, allowing them to intentionally look for and understand health information to gain knowledge to make an informed health decision.

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