2007-07-25 / Seniors

Finding Reliable Health Information Online

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you give me some pointers for finding reliable health information on the Internet? With so much information out there, I'm not sure where to turn or who to trust. What can you tell me?

Surfing at 70

Dear Surfing:

You're wise not to believe everything you read, especially when it comes to health-related information on the World Wide Web. Here's what you should know.

Credible or Quackery?

The Internet is a wonderful resource for finding health-related information, but with so many different Web sites and so much information available today, how can you know what you're finding is credible? As a rule, health-related sites sponsored by the U.S. government, not-forprofit health or medical organizations and university medical centers are the most reliable sources of health information on the Web. On the other hand, sites offering health information that are supported by for-profit companies, such as drug or insurance companies (who may be trying to sell you their products) may not be your best option. To find out who's sponsoring a site and where the information came from, click on the "About Us" tab on the site's home page. You can also look for the red and blue "HON" seal at the bottom of each page, which means that the site met certain standards set by the Health On the Net Foundation. However, there are many good sites that don't have this seal.

Also, be aware that good health and medical information changes all the time, so check the date that the information was published to make sure it's current. And, as always, use common sense and good judgment when evaluating online health information and remember to talk to your doctor about your findings.

Reliable Health Sites

Another way to ensure that you get dependable health information is to visit trusted Web sites. While there are dozens of good sites that provide quality information, here are four top-rated, general health sites that are also easy to navigate:

MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov): This comprehensive health site brings together information from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and other government and health-related organizations. It provides easy-to-find information on more than 700 diseases and conditions. It also provides lists of hospitals and physicians, a medical encyclopedia and a medical dictionary, extensive information on prescription and nonprescription drugs and links to thousands of clinical trials at clinicaltrials. gov. It also offers a senior-specific health site (nihseniorhealth.gov) that makes age-related health information easy to get.

Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.com): Run by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, this site provides comprehensive information on a wide variety of diseases, conditions, treatments, drugs and supplements. It also offers a collection of informative health tools, including a symptom checker, health decision guides, self-assessments, interactive health calculators, slide shows, videos, up-to-date health news and more. On their "Ask a Specialist" page, you can e-mail your health questions to specialists in about 40 different areas.

WebMD (www.webmd.com): A popular site that provides top-quality health information and news in an easyto find format, WebMD also provides a number of nifty bells and whistles, such as interactive checkups and a symptom checker. WebMD also offers information and tips on healthy living, health care services, prescription and over-the-counter medications and much more.

Healthline (www.healthline.com): This is a unique site that works like a medical search engine, providing articles and information from top health sites on the Web. On its home page, you can research almost any health topic or treatment using the search option, or you can choose among 200 disease-specific channels. Click on high blood pressure, for example, and you'll be provided articles that have either appeared in peerreviewed medical publications or have been written in simple language by one of 1,100 physicians, specialists and medical editors hired by Healthline.

Savvy Tips: The Medical Library Association offers a consumer's list of 100 top health-related Web sites you can trust at www.caphis.mlanet.org/consumer. And see the massive new health site run by America Online founder Steve Case at www.revolutionhealth.com.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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