Research Key

Attitudes to Health Information Use by Personnel in Petrol Station Enterprises in Buea, Cameroon

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1.1 Background to the Study


Demographic variables are socio-economic characteristics of a population expressed statistically as age, gender, educational qualification, income level, marital status, occupation, religion, birth rate, death rate and size of the family (Shehu, 2005). The identified demographic variables have positive and negative effects on man’s state of health, but the improvement, corrections and preventive measures are acquired through man’s health-seeking information behaviour.


Gender role is perceived as masculine and feminine. Males are more physically fit than females who believe they are the weaker sex. Females are good environmentalists because they spend much time at home; regularly attend clinics owing to their reproductive health problems (Emiola, 2007). Shehu, et. al. Yahaya, Onasanya, Ogunsakin and Oniyangi (2011) reported that females are known to be more physically inactive (less involved in physical activity) than males who have a high physical activity related energy expenditure. Males are also more involved in alcohol consumption than females. Marital status includes single, married, divorced, separated and widowed.

Married women can only engage in exercise if the husband is interested unlike others not under the control of anybody (Shehu, 2005). Religion is conceived as a factor that influences female participation in physical activities especially among families of Northern Nigeria. Access to health care services is high due to the support gained from their husbands (Kay, 2006). The females also maintained adequate sanitation. Apart from the problems resulting from loneliness and inability to hide sickness by female widows, they also engage in alcohol consumption to forget sorrow (Abubakar, 2011). Harris and Thoresen (2005) opined that marital status determines the degree at which one maintains strong and healthy relationship in terms of positive behaviour, increased longevity, fewer depressive symptoms, better mental wellbeing and life satisfaction.


With rapid advances in healthcare technologies, health information has become increasingly complex. To effectively use the wealth of information and make rational choices to promote health, health literacy (HL) has been regarded as a key determinant in contemporary society. According to a widely employed definition proposed by the United States National Library of Medicine (Ratzan and Parker, 2000 in Furuya, et. al., 2013), HL, is ‘the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions’.

Health literacy is now understood as interplay between individuals’ literacy skills and the demands of their environment (Furuya, 2013). When individuals can effectively access, understand, and use health-related information (i.e., have high health literacy) their short- and long-term health outcomes improve (Baker, 2007; Berkman, Sheridan, Donahue, Halpern, & Crotty, 2011; DeWalt, Berkman, Sheridan, Lohr, & Pignone, 2004; Paasche-Orlow& Wolf, 2007 in Furuya, 2013).

However, health professionals must also provide accessible, understandable, and meaningful information in order for people to use that information, navigate the health system, and better control their health outcomes. There is also an increased recognition of the contextual nature of health literacy, and how risk factors across the social ecology can affect health literacy. For example, individual health literacy behaviours and skills are impacted by a continuum of factors ranging from individual (e.g., age, education, income, gender, marital status).


The primary sources of health information for most people were physicians or friends and family. But over the past decade the resources people used and relied on for health information, and how it was used, have radically changed. With the ubiquitous availability of the Internet, health information seekers now take on the role of gathering and assessing this information, often before they visit or return to their doctors. To find health information, most people turn to search engines or health sites, whether to answer questions about a new physical discomfort, a known ailment or about a health matter facing a child or other person (Gutman, 2011). The amount of health information on the Internet is vast, and what is found is often impersonal and often irrelevant. In most cases, this information is provided by sources whose trustworthiness cannot be easily validated.


Today, health information online is organised around topics (like symptoms, conditions, and treatments) but not around what is most important. This means that entirely different people get the same results when they enter the same search, or look on the same health website (Gutman, 2011 in Bradford, et. al., 2005). This makes little sense: If these very different individuals went to the same doctor, they would get different answers to the same question. Imagine visiting your doctor and receiving health information before being asked any basic questions about yourself (your age, gender, health history, etc.).


The environment in which patients use health information has changed dramatically during the past decade. Rapid diffusion of Internet technology within the public sphere has placed an unprecedented amount of health information within reach of general consumers (Lkreps, 2003 in Bradford, et. al., 2005). Advances in information-tailoring tools and telemedicine have broadened the reach of health care specialists beyond the constraints of the traditional office (Institute of Medicine, 2002in Bradford, et. al., 2005). Increases in patient advocacy and consumerism have prompted pharmaceutical companies to launch direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns, while entertainment and the news media play host to an ever-increasing breadth of health and illness discussions (Kline, 2003 in Bradford, et. al., 2005). At the same time, concerns over a digital divide, due to the uneven diffusion of health technologies, merit close monitoring by the federal government.


Better health is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more. Many factors influence health status and a country’s ability to provide quality health services for its people. Ministries of health are important actors, but so are other government departments, donor organisations, civil society groups and communities themselves. For example: investments in roads can improve access to health services; inflation targets can constrain health spending; and civil service reform can create opportunities – or limits – to hiring more health workers (WHO, 2017). Cameroon, a central African country that has set its sights on becoming an emerging economy by 2035, will have to prioritise health care access for the poorest segments of the population if it is to make solid progress toward lasting growth. This diagnosis is advanced in Cameroon Economic Update, a twice-yearly World Bank publication designed to promote dialogue on various aspects of the country’s outlook. Its sixth issue is devoted to the subject of health (World Bank, 2013).


Even though Cameroon’s proportion of doctors (1.9 per 1,000 inhabitants) is twice the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization, the country’s health statistics are paradoxically behind the curve. Life expectancy for Cameroonians has decreased by about two years since 1990, while it has increased by an average of five years in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, Cameroon is also among the countries where the mortality rate for children under five years of age (122 deaths per 1,000 live births) has decreased the least (World Bank, 2013). “It is in the self-interest of health care personnel to work in an urban setting, where their clients have higher salaries and their own chances for professional advancement are greater than in rural areas,” Sorgho (2015) explains a World Bank health specialist and co-author of the report. “Whatever their social conditions, Cameroonians pay a high price for care that is often deficient,” he adds, “and the country has no risk-sharing mechanisms such as health insurance, a situation that perpetuates the cycle of poverty”. In Cameroon, recently the government has put in place health care plan for its workers whereby a percentage of healthcare cost for ill civil servants is absorbed by the state. The private sector, in an effort to promote quality healthcare has come up with Health Management Organizations (HMO). Cameroon’s First Lady Madam Chantal Biya has set up humanitarian services to tackle health issues and problems like the Chantal Biya Foundation, The Circle of Friends of Cameroon and The Chantal Biya International Centre for Research.


Heath care exists to help people maintain this optimal state of health. Nordqvist (2017) further explains that health refers not only to the absence of diseases, but the ability to recover and bounce back from illness and other problems and factors for good health include genetics, the environment, relationships, and education. Mental and physical health are the two most commonly discussed types of health. We also talk about spiritual health among others (Nordqvist, 2017). Good health is, therefore, the first prerequisite for the effective presence of employees in any organization. It is widely known that working is good for people’s health and wellbeing, but it is increasingly being recognised that a healthy work force is beneficial to employers too.


The European Network for Workplace Health as cited by a WHO, (2016) online article defines workplace health as the combined efforts of employers and employees and the society to improve on the health and wellbeing of people at work. According to WHO, workplace health can be promoted by placing particular emphasis on improving the work organisation, and working environment, increase workers’ participation in shaping the work environment and encouraging personal skills and professional development.


Health care is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general physical and mental health and wellbeing of people around the world. In the Netherlands there are considerable health differences by marital status; differences are found in subjective and objective health measures, in mental and physical health, and in morbidity and mortality (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1997).  In general, divorced people have the most and married people the least health problems. Married people have less health problems than unmarried people living with a partner. Differences in mortality by marital status are smaller among women than among men.

There are two explanatory theories: the social causation theory (marital status influences health) and the selection theory (health influences marital status). Both theories play a role in the explanation of the health differences. The effect of marital status on health among men is mainly mediated by psychosocial factors, whereas material circumstances are the principal intermediary factor among women. Health intervention among unmarried men should be aimed at intensifying social support from the environment, among divorced women it should be aimed at improving material conditions.


As broadband and mobile access spreads, more people have the ability and increasingly, the habit of sharing what they are doing or thinking. In health care this translates to people tracking their workout routines, posting reviews of their medical treatments, and raising awareness about certain health conditions. The Internet has changed people’s relationships with information. Data consistently show that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals continue to be the first choice for most people with health concerns, but online resources, including advice from peers, are a significant source of health information in the United States (Susannah, 2011).




1.2 Statement of the Problem


Health is central to human happiness and wellbeing. It makes an important contribution to economic progress as healthy populations live longer and more productive. Many factors influence health status and a country’s ability to provide quality health services for its people. Ministries of health are important actors, but so are other government departments, donour organisations, civil society groups and communities themselves. Maintaining one’s health and wellbeing throughout lifetime by incorporating exercises, diet, preventive health checks, sleep management, managing mental issues, are all important aspects of one’s health and wellbeing. 

    Petrol stations are busy places with lots of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It has been observed that petroleum enterprises pay less attention to the health risk their jobs possess. Some of these health risks can involve breathing problems, vomiting, cardiovascular infections, nausea, and skin rash. Workers in this industry seem insensitive to these risks as it has been observed that they seem not to be interested in seeking and using health information to improve their health issues.

The reason accountable for this poor attitude could be demographic variables such as gender, educational qualification, marital status and income level. In an attempt to solve all these health risk problems, petrol stations store all hazardous chemicals in their original containers, train staff and provide appropriate protective clothing. These measures do not seem to address this problem of proper health information use. This is evident in the fact that workers are still exposing themselves to these hazardous substances.


It is against this backdrop that this study is carried out to investigate the influence these demographic variables have on attitude to health information use by personnel of petroleum enterprises




1.3 Objectives of the Study


The main objective of the study is to find out the influence of demographic variables on attitude to health information use by personnel of private petroleum enterprises in Buea, Cameroon


1.3.1 Specific Objectives


The specific objectives of the study are to:


Determine the influence of gender on attitude to health information use by personnel of private petroleum enterprises in Buea, Cameroon.

Investigate the influence of educational level on attitude to health information use by personnel of private petroleum enterprises in Buea, Cameroon.

Determine the influence of marital status on attitude to health information use by personnel of private petroleum enterprises in Buea, Cameroon.

Ascertain the influence of income level on attitude to health information use by personnel of private petroleum enterprises in Buea, Cameroon

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