This paper examines a qualitative approach that is being used to assess the effectiveness of health communication, through the adaptation and application of a semi structured, qualitative interview protocol (McGill Illness Narrative Interview - MINI), conceived to elicit illness narratives in health research. MINI was created by three researchers from McGill University mainly to be used in transcultural psychiatry. However, it is known that the MINI schedule can be used in other areas of the social studies of health and medicine (Groleau, Young & Kirmayer, 2006). The project on which the research is based is part of the Harvard Medical School Portugal Program on Translational Science and health Information and aims at evaluating the state of access to health information, its sources and appropriation by the Portuguese population.
We adapted the original version of MINI, adding a module on sources of information and its appropriation. MINI adapted (MINIa) is thus one of a set of tools used to 1) assess the strengths and the weaknesses of health information strategies and initiatives, both current and in course of development – especially within the Harvard Medical School (HSM) Portugal Program – and 2) evaluate the impacts of these strategies and initiatives on health conditions and their determinants. Several pilot interviews were conducted over a 12 month period with patients suffering from specific pathologies: breast cancer and asthma. A preliminary analysis of the interviews points to health professionals as the most common source of health information reported, followed by Internet and television. MINIa has emerged as a powerful tool to assess, in a qualitative perspective, the effectiveness of communication tools and also to identify potential sources/networks involved in health communication and which require further inquiry.
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