Finding health information online is an easy way to gain knowledge but anyone can write online health articles - so how can you get reliable information?
Good Health Information Sources:
When searching online you want to make sure you are getting good advice. You can increase your chances of getting accurate information by:
- Using sites with the domain .edu. This alerts online users that the website is a university site. Information provided by a university is based on medical research and sometimes even comes from a hospital associated with the university. This leads us to the second tip,
- Going to hospital websites. Information on hospital websites is written by health professionals (or if written by the public relations team it has been approved by the relevant health professionals)
- Trying credible medical sites that are targeted towards the general public like WebMD or MyDr. These sites have articles written or authorized by health care professionals.
- Finding health sites created or endorsed by a government department
- Going to health foundations (like the American Asthma Foundation). These are great sources, especially about specific health topics like immunization, asthma or diabetes.
Deciding About Other Health Information:
For other websites you need to read the articles in a 'critical' way. This does not mean to think badly of what you are reading. Just to consider the following questions while reading before you accept the information:
- Who has written the article? What are their qualifications and experience with the topic? Do they have any motivation, such as selling something, which may mean the information is biased?
- What is the site that you have found the information on about? Is it objective or does it promote a certain treatment (especially an untested treatment)? Does it exist to sell a product?
- Does the information you find on the site appear on other credible websites in some way? If information is repeated or backed up on other credible sites it suggests the information is reliable (you can do a Google search to check this out).
- Check out the information you find with your doctor or health professional. They are great resources to help with your online health information gathering.
This of course takes some time and effort to do this but you will increase your chances of finding good online health information.