How Foreign Domestic Workers Obtain Health Information

Domestic helpers tend to prefer talking about health matters with their peers, not professionals.

As a multicultural city, Hong Kong is a favourite destination among foreign household service workers, also commonly known as foreign domestic helpers.

While they contribute positively to different aspects of local life, the helpers face health challenges, largely resulting from unfavourable work and living conditions, and limited access to quality health information and care.

Motivated to find ways to improve the health of foreign domestic helpers, Dr Crystal JIANG Li and Jan Michael Alexandre C BERNADAS conducted a study among Filipino domestic helpers to explore if and why they use the Internet for health information. Guided by the Comprehensive Model of Information Seeking, they discovered that helpers who were health-conscious and trusted the Internet were likely to engage with online health information-seeking. More importantly, they found that the tailorability of the Internet – or the ability to supply relevant information given a specific health situation – was the most powerful reason why helpers chose to use the Internet for health information-seeking.

While the study was exploratory and cross-sectional, it attempts to broaden the discussion on labour migration and women’s health in two ways.

First, the study enriches understanding of migrant workers, particularly women workers, in terms of their health behaviours and perceived health information sources through a theoretical lens. The findings provide practical implications for targeting and reaching vulnerable migrant workers in Hong Kong through planned health campaigns and other efforts. A key takeaway for programme and policy is that health messages for foreign domestic helpers should be communicated via not just trusted, but also tailorable, channels.

Second, the study highlights the significance of attitudes toward channels for encouraging health communication behaviours. In the study, the domestic helpers expressed a clear preference for in-group, interpersonal sources such as friends and peer helpers over professional sources like Hong Kong doctors. More efforts should be spent on reducing socio-cognitive barriers to professional sources.

For more details, please visit the article published by Health and Technology

Publications and achievements:
Bernadas, J.M.A.C., & Jiang, L.C. (2019). Explaining online health information seeking of foreign domestic workers: A test of the comprehensive model of information seeking. Health and Technology, 9(1), 7-16.