Ethnic and gender differences in Southwestern students' sources of information about health.

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Students from several rural, Southwestern schools rated family, television, teachers and doctors as the most important of 11 sources of information about various health topics. However, doctors were only the fifth-ranked source of information about sex and reproduction and the seventh-ranked source of information about drugs, with friends being the fourth- and third-ranked sources of information about these two more personal and sensitive topics. American Indians reported even stronger reliance on doctors than did Hispanic and Anglo students, and rated clinic nurses as much more important sources of health information than did the other two ethnic groups. Females showed greater reliance on social sources and less on electronic media than did male students, and high school students relied more on print media and less on television, nurses and family than did younger children. Students felt more knowledgeable about smoking, alcohol and exercise than about diet, the heart-blood system and cancer; however, American Indians felt less informed about smoking and alcohol than did Anglos or Hispanics. These findings (especially when compared to previous results) suggest that effective health education programs must be tailored to particular populations and based on specific knowledge of their attitudes, behavior and environment.