You can find links to pre-screened health care sites in general, and New York State services in particular, on the Health Information Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls. Included is Crandall Medical Librarian Guinevere Forshey’s useful article called “The ABC’s of Evaluating Online Consumer Health Information.” Among her suggestions:
Ask yourself “Am I getting both sides of the issue?” Opinions are different from facts and they should be clearly stated as opinions. “Are they trying to sell me something?” A quality health site will not disguise advertising as facts. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Look for sites that give the author’s education or training. Good websites will have contact information that is easy to find and will include a phone number, postal and email addresses.
Forshey recommends Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine & the National Institute of Health as a great place to get started. It has info on all kinds of topics, as well as its own list of links about interpreting and evaluating health websites. There’s even a medical encyclopedia and dictionary and links to health news from the last 30 days.
Forshey’s picks for parents include KidsHealth (“up-to-date information about growth, food and fitness, childhood infections, immunizations, lab tests, medical and surgical conditions, and the latest treatments”) and Family Doctor (“great information on common conditions from the
For some parents, sources like the ones above may take too much of a medical approach to some problems, especially behavioral questions like co-sleeping and discipline. Finding qualified experts who are open to alternative parenting options is hard, but AskDrSears may be a good choice. The Sears clan -- William Sears, MD, his wife, Martha Sears, RN, and their sons James and Robert, also pediatricians – have shared their advice with both TV news shows and attachment parenting magazines like Mothering. Their website is full of opinionated insight into breast and bottle feeding, sleep problems, fussy babies and other parenting concerns.
Nor should die-hard skeptics worry. There’s a site for you, too. Quackwatch, written by psychiatrist Stephen Barrett, is on a mission to attack misleading advertising and investigate questionable claims. If nothing else, his articles – on infomercials, homeopathic remedies and acupuncture -- will makes you think twice about alternative medicine. Barrett is also behind the Internet Health Pilot, billed as “Your Gateway to Reliable Health Information.” These related sites give searching strategies, tips for telling if a site is “quacky,” and a links to sites they like.
One of those sites is Keep Kids Healthy, written by pediatrician Vincent Ianelli. Most sites will give you medical advice, but Ianelli’s is the only one I’ve seen that delivers it in the form of haiku:
A bark like a seal
Trouble breathing and hoarse cry.
Try some steam or mist.
One final note: Forshey advises always checking with your healthcare provider before following any medical advice on the Web.