Sunday, September 03, 2006

if it walks like a duck...

How to evaluate health information sources

There's nothing wrong with plugging terms into Yahoo or Google - as long as you learn a bit about evaluating what you find.

What makes a health info source a good one?
  • You can tell who posted or created the info (responsibility)
  • You can tell how recently the website was updated (currency)
  • You can easily find out how to contact the site owners, because there's an e-mail link on the site (usually at the bottom.)
  • If there's commercial content, it's carefully kept separate from the information, clearly marked as advertisement.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, chances are pretty good it's not reliable: ALWAYS verify this type of info by checking elsewhere.
  • If you are asked to become a 'salesperson' for their products or site ("TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS!") I'd take it with a BIG grain of salt (unless you're hypertensive - then I suggest you just look elsewhere

These and other criteria are things you need to be aware of when looking for health information (and any other info) online. What a lot of people don't realize is that any one of us could steal a logo (oh, like the AMA!) - and set up a website in very short order... fill it full of outdated and dangerous information... charge for some pamphlet... there is nothing much to prevent a 'fly-by-night' operation.

Feel free to ask for assistance at the Second Life Medical Library in evaluating health claims and sites. It’s why we’re here!

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