Evaluating health information
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Every day, millions of Canadian consumers search for and evaluate health information on the web, including what is in popular magazines at the supermarket and in traditional media such as radio and television. Some health information is perfectly reliable and accurate but much is not. The goal is to teach consumers to evaluate health information and learn to distinguish misleading, dangerous information from the authoritative. When searching the web, it is absolutely critical that its authority is determined i.e., who is behind the health website? In trying to determine the "who" behind a website, look for an "about us" link on the site and try to determine the authors' credentials. Who is in partnership with the website? If the Harvard Medical School and the National Library of Medicine are behind the site, you can assume that the website is not out to get your money or to deceive you. Further, by verifying the credentials of each author, you can see how they got involved in the project and to which institution they are primarily affiliated. With respect to organizations, does the site look as though it might be affiliated with a branch of government? a university, health organization, hospital or health organization? Aim to focus next on the quality of the layout, and the text. Does the site seem to employ an editorial board? Is health information reviewed by experts before it's posted?
To evaluate health information, it may be important to seek a second or third opinion. Or to evaluate the information in hand with information either in your print textbooks or proprietary databases. Further, are the entries you are reading well-written and appropriate for varying literacy levels of your readers? Try to be as highly critical as possible in your review of health information. If something on a site is too good to be true, it probably is.
More criteria for evaluating resources
How do you evaluate health information you find of the Web? There are six broad criteria for evaluation of health information you find on the web. They are: Credibility, Content, Disclosure, Links, Design and Interactivity. Each of the criteria is described in more depth here. These criteria were originally defined in paper, Assessing the quality of health information on the internet published in 1998. Variations on the criteria have been used widely ever since.
Disclaimer: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.