Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everything You Should Know About Seeking Health Information on the Internet

When it comes to your health, how do you know that whatever information you received on the internet is accurate and reliable?


 There are a number of reasons why one would turn to the internet to seek health related information. In fact, the internet has become an important means for helping people make health related decisions. May be lack of health insurance plays a role in why we use the internet to maintain healthy or it could be simply the convenience that the internet provides. More and more of us use the internet to:
  1. Engage in more primary prevention behaviors
  2. Increase our awareness of certain illnesses and diseases
  3. Research the latest health gadgets and devices
Research has indicated that those who use the internet as a primary source for health information were more likely to to be health conscious, more concerned about their health, and more likely to engage in healthy behaviors than those who did not use the internet as a primary information source (1). 

Here are a few tips to make sure that you are receiving reliable, quality, and accurate health information from the web:
1. Minimize use of .com sites as much as possible. There are many quacks out there and we don't want to be prey to them. Instead, utilize sites that end in .edu(education sites) or .org(organizations) or .gov(government sites). 

2. Always compliment one source with another. For example, if you're searching breast cancer on site A, don't be afraid to compare and contrast the information  on breast cancer found on site A with site B and site C. It doesn't hurt. Research, because when it comes to our health, we need to be sure.

3. Here is a checklist for evaluating Online Health Information from the Spry Foundation (2).


1. Can you tell who created the content Yes No
2. Are you given enough information to judge if the author is reliable? Yes No
3. Can you tell if the content is current? Yes No
4. Can you tell if the content is accurate? Yes No
5. Do you have confidence that your privacy is protected? Yes No
6. Is the content copyrighted? Yes No
7. Does the site provide complete contact information? Yes No
8. Is it clear who is funding the site? Yes No
9. Is there a clear disclaimer posted? Yes No
10. Does the site provide references for its content? Yes No
11. Is it clear who is the intended audience? Yes No
There are many advantages to using the internet to seek health information. Although, there are barriers to seeking care online, using the internet is a means for us to take more responsibility of our healthy, and take more of an active role.

Disclaimer: Remember technology is a tool and should not be used as a crutch or as a replacement to visiting your doctor or any other health care provider. Always question what you see on the internet and never take anything at face value, not matter how pretty the site looks.

I hope this information was helpful to you?  
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Sources:
1. Dutta-Bergman, M.J. (2004). Primary sources of health information: Comparisons in the domain or health attitudes, health cognitions, and health behaviors. Health Communication, 16(3), 273-288.

2. SPRY Foundation (2001). Evaluating health information on the World Wide Web: A hands-on guide for older adults and caregivers. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from http://www.spry.org/sprys_work/education/EvaluatingHealthInfo.html