Few studies of the ways patients and consumers seek health information have investigated use of web portals or French- and English-speakers’ experiences understanding and using web-based health information. This study investigated the policy assumptions underlying the Canadian Health Network (CHN) web portal through discourse analysis and a focus group with portal managers. Interviews were conducted with French- and English-speaking users to understand how the CHN fit in their practices of information seeking and use. This study found that the policy discourse assumed the CHN would improve access to health information and personal responsibility for health and health care decision-making. Interviewees accessed the CHN, among other websites and non-internet resources, to expand their understanding of health issues, participate more actively in their health care and support other people’s understanding of health issues. French-speakers faced additional constraints to understanding health information as they crossed linguistic, cultural and jurisdictional boundaries on the web.
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