Decades of communication science have established that media are an important source for health information, and can contribute to behavior change. This is especially true for ethnic minority populations who rely on and trust information from the media. However, health information is unequally distributed - that is, different groups of people have different access to and ability to make sense of information - and this inequality may be compounded in rural regions with geographically-dispersed populations that face multiple barriers to health, including high rates of poverty and unemployment, low educational attainment, and lack of access to healthy foods, opportunities to engage in physical activity, and medical care. These are precisely the kinds of places that can benefit from information from the mass media, which can diffuse health information across wide spaces, and where the majority Latino population are heavy users of media and place trust in media as a source of information.
Our research demonstrated that there is a dearth of health information available in the region as a whole, and that there are communities that suffer especially hard -- areas that we can characterize as "information deserts"*. Like food deserts, information deserts are communities that lack access to health information in general, especially information that can be useful to improve health.
We are working to publish this work and moving toward interventions to remedy the situation.
* Thanks to Amy Leader for helping me to coin this term!