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Many of us use the Internet to research questions about our own and our pets' health. "Hunting for Health: From Web diet sites to disease news, here's how to tell quackery from quality" by Katherine Hobson will be published in the Nov. 17, 2003 issue of US News and World Report. While geared toward those researching human health-related questions, these guidelines are also helpful to those of us who need to evaluate the accuracy of information we encounter when using the Internet to research our pets' health concerns.

This piece offers the following suggestions for evaluating web sites. (The following material is a series of excerpts from the above article.)

1. Follow the money. First, find out who owns the website and why they're running it.

2. Scope and balance. You've also got to figure out how balanced the information is. Does it give voice to both sides of controversial issues...?

3. Easy or hard? The intended audience...is key. A site may offer very accurate information that's simply too difficult for the layperson to understand. That is often the case with PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi)...Some of the abstracts may be a good jumping-off point for                     discussions with doctors, but others are incomprehensible.

4. On time. The fourth feature of good health information is currency--being up to date. Knowledge changes quickly, and last year's news or treatment guidelines may be superseded by newer, better studies.

5. Go to the source. Finally, assess the site's sources of information and whether they're credible.
Hope some of this is helpful. :)

[ November 08, 2003, 09:47 PM: Message edited by: Betsy Iole ]
 

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Along the same lines is this recent news release.

Study Finds Problems with Access to Credible Health Information On-line, Calls for More Help for Consumers
Thursday, February 12, 2004

URAC and Consumer WebWatch Recommend Improvements in Education and Technology to Assist Consumers in Finding Health Information


Washington, DC - Today URAC and Consumer WebWatch (CWW), a project of Consumers Union, released a report that finds problems with access to credible health information on the Internet and makes expert recommendations for improving access to health information for consumers.


The project's review of information finds that: 1) consumers' ability to locate and evaluate health information online is hindered by access barriers for older, less well off, disabled, and non-English speaking Americans; 2) a difficulty in distinguishing credible health information from that which is not trustworthy; 3) Web sites contain inaccurate, outdated or incomplete information; and 4) consumers lack of knowledge on how search engines retrieve results or the impact of paid placements on listings of health Web sites.


\"Searches for health information are one of the most common reasons consumers use the Internet,\" said Garry Carneal, URAC president and CEO. \"One of our greatest challenges is helping consumers find the information they want that is also accurate, reliable and presented in an accessible format.\"


\"Consumers can easily be misled by incomplete, inaccurate, outdated, even outright biased health information they find on the Internet,\" said Beau Brendler, director of Consumer WebWatch. \"A simple Web search can become a dangerous enabling tool, pointing consumers to sites that peddle drugs without prescriptions. The search engine community could do better in taking responsibility for its \"paid content.' \"
 
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