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Arch Hellen Med, 27(2), March-April 2010, 239-258


Information and communication technology in health education:
Theoretical framework, empirical findings and research perspectives

1Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, University of Thessaly, Trikala,
2Health Centre of Vari and Clinic of Social and Family Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece

In recent years, the wide availability of information and communication technology (ICT) has lead to the increasing implementation of health education programs based on ICT (HEP-B-ICT) and to empirical research regarding the evaluation of such programs. The aims of this study are the definition of the theoretical framework that should guide the design and development of HEP-B-ICT, the review of recent empirical research on the evaluation of the effectiveness of HEP-B-ICT, and the definition of future research perspectives regarding the design, development and evaluation of HEP-B-ICT on the basis of the empirical findings and the theoretical framework. The perspectives that ICT creates for health education are presented as well as the psychological theories regarding both health behavior change and effective learning through ICT, which should jointly guide the design and development of HEP-B-ICT. From the review, it derives that HEP-B-ICT constitute valuable tools for health education both in the field of smoking prevention and cessation, alcohol and drug abuse and in the promotion of healthy eating and/or physical activity. Those programs are well received by their users, especially by young people, and at the same time, they are proven to be effective in helping them to acquire knowledge about health issues (e.g. good nutrition, the harmful effects of smoking, alcohol and drugs), to shape desired attitudes towards health issues (e.g. anti-smoking and anti-alcoholic attitudes), and to change -at least in the short term- their health-related behaviors towards the desired goal (e.g. smoking decrease/cessation, adoption of healthy eating habits, increase in physical activity). However, it seems that research regarding the evaluation of HEP-B-ICT is still in its infancy and presents several methodological weaknesses. It also derives that the design of most HEP-B-ICT is based on psychological theories regarding health behavior change, without however being guided at the same time by the psychological theories that today inspire the creation of effective ICT-based learning environments. It concludes that future research in the area of the design, development and evaluation of HEP-B-ICT should address health issues for which adequate HEP-B-ICT have not yet been  created, should overcome the various methodological weaknesses, and should exploit the contemporary research tendencies in the area of educational technology, with the ultimate goal of fully exploiting the potential that ICT offers for health education.

Key words: Educational technology, Health education, Health promotion, Information and communication technology, Prevention.

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