According to a recent Pew Research Center report, eight in ten internet users search for health and medical information online. It’s all the more important, then, that the online information we find is reliable and accurate. Anyone – egads, even Coach Stacy and I – can create content for the web, but there’s no telling whether or not the information you’re reading has been created by someone qualified to write it. Just for the record, Coach Stacy is qualified. Me? Not as much. But I’m top-notch at finding good information and passing it along.
Speaking of good information, the National Library of Medicine has developed a brief and informative tutorial on how to evaluate online health information. You’ll want to take that tutorial prior to doing any serious online health research. The NLM website also features a concise article, “A User’s Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web.” The article features several of the criteria mentioned in the online tutorial in addition to links to NLM’s various “Medspeak” brochures that are designed to assist laymen in deciphering the medical lingo used by health care professionals. The article also provides links to top consumer health, cancer, diabetes and heart disease websites.
Here are a few of the health websites that Coach Stacy and I like:
- www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus: This is the Disneyland of health websites – you can browse for hours in wonder and amazement. It features the latest in health and medical news, a user-friendly drug reference that includes herbs and supplements, a comprehensive medical dictionary as well as encyclopedia, tutorials on a variety of health topics, and the really juicy stuff – surgical videos. Coach Stacy loves these. She passes out at the very thought of having to get a shot but she salivates at the prospect of watching the video of an heart transplant procedure. Go figure.
- www.familydoctor.org: This site is operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians and features basic health and wellness information for family members of all ages. The feature we like best is the “Check Your Symptoms” tool.
- www.cdc.gov: Maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this website is packed with information on a variety of health/medical issues and diseases. It’s an excellent source of health data and statistics and features a handy BMI calculator (which we’ve also added to Coach Stacy’s Healthy U). The site is dynamic and updated daily with fresh content on healthy living. My favorite feature? Health-e-cards: Over 100 different electronic greeting cards on a variety of health and prevention topics. And get this – there’s even an iPhone app for the e-cards that you can download right from the site.
- www.pdrhealth.com: Are you on drugs? Do you need drugs? This is the online version of the Physicians’ Desk Reference and provides accessible, easy to understand information about hundreds of medications, the usual dosages, possible side effects, contraindications, what to avoid while taking the medication, and more. It’s a valuable resource in that it presents more information than you’d find on the side of the prescription bottle, but more concise and comprehensible than what’s included in the inserts, which most of us never bother to read anyway…..Beware, though, of annoying advertisements on the perimeters.
- www.mayoclinic.com: The Mayo Clinic site is a reliable, well-maintained tool. Although it’s commercial, it nevertheless is a good resource for information when you’re not well. Its Symptom Checker is handy for exploring the possible causes of illness. There’s also a helpful database of tests and procedures, many of which include videos that walk patients through the procedures in step-by-step detail so they know what to expect. The site also features thousands of links for articles on healthy living as well as a myriad of healthy recipes.
- www.webmd.com: Web MD is a basically a busy and glitzy online health magazine. Amid thousands of links to health and medical articles, online quizzes, and FAQs, you’ll stumble upon advertisements for Kaplan University’s nursing school and Target’s pharmacy. The site is fun and informative, though, and even features a tab for pet health. Naturally, Coach Stacy is all over that one.
And finally, your disclaimer. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that web information should never replace advice from your medical practitioner, but rather, used to supplement your physician’s counsel. Now start surfing already!