When you need health answers, find someone you can trust
Every day, millions and millions of Americans search online for health information from “abdominal pain” to “zinc deficiency.” Unfortunately, each day, websites are added to answer these questions, but not all are trustworthy – some may actually endanger your health. If you are looking for answers to health questions, this is your starting place to ensure the information you find is accurate and up-to-date.
If you Google “abdominal pain,” for example, more than 18 million results are available for you to peruse. The sites are ranked based on an algorithm that attempts to provide the most quality websites toward the top of the list. But it isn’t perfect, so you need to take it upon yourself to know what to look for when evaluating a website for trustworthiness. Better yet, instead of taking a chance, start with a trusted database of information such as MedlinePlus.gov.
MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health’s Web site for patients produced by the National Library of Medicine. It offers reliable and current health information and covers more than 900 medical conditions. Plus, there are guides to thousands of treatments such as drugs or dietary supplements, calculators and quizzes, and interactive tutorials – including one on how to evaluate the health information you find on the Web.
If you do choose to conduct a search yourself, be sure to look for a site that is sponsored by a trusted organization. This helps establish the site as respected and dependable. Especially look at the web address extension. .gov indicates that it is a government agency and .edu specifies that the organization is an educational institution. Most often, .org represents a professional organization, but keep in mind that anyone can purchase a .org domain name.
Commercial sites are not always unreliable. Hospitals and medical facilities, such as the Mayo Clinic, have .com extensions and offer valuable and reliable advice. However, many .com’s are sponsored by a firm that likely is promoting its own interests. Merck.com, for example, is a trusted pharmaceutical company, but will not likely offer much objective advice for a treatment sold by GlaxoSmithKline.
Other things to look for in a health website include the availability of current information. The medical field is constantly changing through research and patient care. The date of the latest revision of a page should be clearly posted. Look for information that is presented objectively and is capable of being verified from a primary source, such as a peer-reviewed medical journal. You can also look for the HON code credential. The “Health on the Internet Foundation Code of Conduct” for medical and health websites holds each accountable for displaying eight specific principles that ensure consumers are getting reliable information from an ethical source.
Note: Emaxhealth.com complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. See below for verification of this achievement.
Are you a Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest user? There are many pages, feeds, and links from these social media sites to health information webpages. According to the State of the News Media 2012, 70% of consumers get their news (including health news) from Facebook and a third from Twitter. Of course, anyone can sign up for a Facebook page or a Twitter account, so pay close attention to where these links take you. And while it is helpful at times to read someone’s personal account of a condition or treatment, you should consider it opinion only – not trusted expert health advice.
Good Housekeeping Magazine recently offered a listing of reliable health information websites for a variety of common medical conditions:
SITES GH TRUSTS: breastcancer.org and hopkinsmedicine.org/avon_foundation_breast_center/ (Johns Hopkins University)
Emaxhealth also recommends: http://ww5.komen.org/ (Susan G. Komen for the Cure)
For General Information about other types of cancer, also visit Cancer.gov (The National Cancer Institute) or http://cancer.org/ (The American Cancer Society)
SITES GH TRUSTS: diabetes.org (The American Diabetes Association) and ndep.nih.gov (National Diabetes Education Program)
Emaxhealth also recommends: www.niddk.nih.gov (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) and jdf.org (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International )
SITES GH TRUSTS: healthyminds.org (American Psychiatric Association) and dbsalliance.org (National Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).
Emaxhealth also recommends: www.nimh.nih.gov (National Institute of Mental Health)
SITES GH TRUSTS: cdc.gov/physicalactivity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and acefitness.org (American Council on Exercise)
Emaxhealth also recommends: http://www.fitness.gov/ (The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition)
SITES GH TRUSTS: cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and familydoctor.org (American Academy of Family Physicians).
Emaxhealth also recommends: www.healthfinder.gov (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services) and www.mayoclinic.com (The Mayo Clinic).
For children’s general health information, visit kidshealth.org (The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media).
SITES GH TRUSTS: hearthub.org (American Heart Association's patient site) and womenheart.org (National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease
Emaxhealth also recommends: www.americanheart.org (the Official AHA website) and www.nhlbi.nih.gov (The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)
SITES GH TRUSTS: eatright.org (American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetics Association) and hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource (Harvard School of Public Health)
Emaxhealth also recommends: nutrition.gov (USDA) and WebMD.com/diet