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See also Bibliotherapy | Consumer health information | Finding health information for British Columbians | Patient education | Web 2.0
Consumer health information (CHI) is a term used to describe the provision of health and medical information to health consumers and the general public. Due to its clear, non-scientific language, CHI explains medical procedures, prescription drugs and the health care system in simple English. CHI often focuses on information about diseases, treatments and diet but may also focus on health and wellness, and health promotion. CHI can be found in pharmacies, grocery stores, health food stores, bookstores, physicians' offices, libraries or via the Web.
The creation of health information mirrors to some extent the web's rise since 1995. From its beginnings, in hospital and public libraries, consumer health information (health information written for the general public) has grown exponentially into a large and important component of health library services. Some health librarians view CHI as a form of patient education; others view it as biblio- or information therapy. In the area of health librarianship, CHI deals with providing information about a range of health promotion and wellness issues. A number of clinical studies have shown that accurate information is important in reducing anxiety in patients and in encouraging their compliance with medical treatments. Adequate provision of health information to the public is increasingly recognized as a factor in patient empowerment and decision-making.
Nearly everyone is a consumer of health information. And yet some consumers have never found their way to the public library to obtain information. The library can be the first access point to additional information resources and consumers, with encouragement, can overcome the barrier of walking through the library door, speaking to a librarian face-to-face, or visiting the library online from home or other community location.
Searching for reliable health information by consumers
According to the Pew Internet Report, about 80% of Internet users (93 million Americans) search regularly on the web for at least one of 16 major health topics. Looking for health or medical information is the most popular online activity after email (93%); researching products and services (83%). Some of the Canadian statistics reveal similar facts in Canada. Six (6) million North Americans go online daily for medical information. In other words, more people go online for medical advice every day than actually visit health professionals, according to the AMA. Only 1/4 of health information seekers follow the recommended protocols on checking the accuracy, timeliness and authority of information they find.
The Consumers' Association of Canada states that the consumers of health care have the right to:
- Be informed
- Participate in decision-making affecting their health
- Be respected as individuals with a major responsibility for their own health care
- Equal access to health care regardless of the individual's economic status, sex, age, creed, ethnic origin and location
Taken from Policy on Consumers of Health Care Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada; 2001
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The HLWIKI International Advisory makes consumer health information (CHI) available to all -- however, it is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice or as a substitute for consulting a doctor. While we strive to keep all content current and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability or suitability of information, products, services, or related graphics contained here or on any of the websites listed. Only qualified health providers can provide health care e.g., they will take your health history, examine you, and bring their expertise and experience to bear on evaluating you. Put simply, advice regarding your care should always include your physician and other health providers. Please ask your local health librarian for further assistance.