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Evaluating Health Information
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Sometimes it’s difficult to make sense of all of the medical and health information we hear about on the news, on the web, in magazines and at the water cooler in the office. Not only can this information be startling, it also tends to be contradictory. If you feel like you hear about so many different conclusions on the same topic from all sorts of “scientific studies,” you’re realizing the true nature of science. Although some things are known for sure, other pieces of scientific data are unproven, and only suggested by correlation from certain studies. That’s why you might hear that eggs are good for you one day and the next day you’ll be advised by another health professional to avoid eggs. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by this information. But in order to let education and research work for you, you should also be aware of how to interpret the data.

The major culprit for unofficial health information is the world-wide web. Some helpful tips for surfing the web for health information include:

  • Look for the entity that runs the site. The site’s sponsor should be easy to find, and the material should be reviewed by medical professionals.
  • Look for the site’s purpose. Some websites will try to push a service or a medication on readers, and this can affect the accuracy and the subjectivity of the information you find.
  • Make sure the information is current. Many studies and statistics might date back a few years, before technological advances or medical discoveries took place.
  • Look critically at all health information, especially the headlines you read in the news. Terms like “may” or “thought to be” are often brushed over in headlines that are targeted to draw you to watch a news program or buy a magazine.
  • It’s best to find your health information in hospital-sponsored medical websites or scientific journals and reviews that publish information reviewed by experienced healthcare professionals.