This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Relationship between Computer Expertise and Obesity in the Black Belt Region of Alabama




Woods, Kristin

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


This study deals with the relationship between computer expertise and obesity in the Black Belt region of Alabama. On the surface these concepts may seem unrelated. However, access to the internet has been associated with a plethora of positive outcomes related to overall quality of life including increased civic engagement (Tolbert & McNeal, 2003) and social capital building activities (Kavanaugh & Patterson, 2001). Non-hispanic blacks, Hispanics, those who did not graduate from high school, low income individuals, and older adults are affected by obesity to a greater degree (CDC, 2010; Wang & Beydoun, 2007). Recent studies have indicated increased computer use among all segments of the population; however, minorities and low-income populations lag behind in adopting some of these technologies (Fox, 2011). Data was collected from residents of the Black Belt region of Alabama. The assessment instrument was modified from a Computer Expertise (CE) questionnaire developed by Arning and Ziefle (2008). The instrument was modified by adding questions concerning demographics and obesity. A Pearson correlation indicated a small, negative relationship (r(304)=.-161, p=.002) between basal metabolic index (BMI) and CE score. When race/ethnicity was included in the model, regression analysis revealed that the CE score failed to explain a significant portion of the variance in BMI. However, search engine knowledge, laptop use, and obtaining health information from television were found to be significant predictors of BMI. The finding that search engine knowledge was associated with reduced obesity indicates that information literacy may be an important factor in solving the complex obesity challenge. Since basic literacy is a foundation of both health literacy and information literacy, the results of this study emphasize the importance of various types of literacy in improving health and overall quality of life.