Tap web, social media for health newsChances are you have a Facebook page and probably a smartphone, right?
By: Susan Brace-Adkins, The Republican Eagle
Chances are you have a Facebook page and probably a smartphone, right?
Do you also access Twitter, RSS feeds, YouTube, podcasts, LinkedIn, texts, blogs, Flickr or Pinterest?
Welcome to the new age of information sharing.
In 2011, The Pew Internet Project estimated that 79 percent of American adults use the internet not only to gather and share information, but to make health decisions. The project also reported that about 83 percent of Americans own some type of cellphone and 19 percent have downloaded a medical application.
This new way of communicating allows users to be both the receivers as well as the producers of information. This means anything can be published on the web and a social media site and put into a smartphone application whether it is true or not.
A recent example of a hoax was a YouTube video that received thousands of hits of an eagle swooping down on a toddler. It was later found to be manufactured through technology.
So, how do we make sure that the information we find is based on sound scientific research and not quackery? Consider these suggestions.
While searching for medical information on the web, it is best to find sites ending in “edu,” “gov” or “org.”
Many commercial websites are trying to sell a product. While this doesn’t always translate into inaccurate information, there is a higher chance the information will be slanted toward a particular viewpoint in order to sell their product.
To be sure a website is credible, look for the “HonCode” certification. Health on the Net Foundation, better known as HonCode, started in 1995 as a way to help consumers and medical professionals identify reliable and credible health information on the web.
Certification doesn’t guarantee the information, but it does address issues around privacy, authority of the information and transparency about sponsorship of the site and requires separation from sponsorship around content.
Social networks allow for sharing information with other users.
The most commonly used social network is Facebook, but other sites like LinkedIn are gaining popularity. Look for sites that come from a national organization like American Heart Association or a credible medical source, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when searching for social networks that provide support or forums.
While information and advice shared by other users is helpful, it is not always accurate. Be wary of testimonials because you don’t know for sure whether they are real.
Also, always check out the information shared on posts with another resource to confirm the validity of the claim. If you can’t find two to three other references for the information, then it is probably false.
Medical applications have exploded in the marketplace and can offer information in a matter of seconds and have the potential to improve health.
Many of these applications are designed to help consumers manage their health condition and others are designed to provide general health information.
In an app store, search for applications that come from a national organization or a credible medical source. Review the details that are available on an application where information is available about the seller.
A quick Google search can identify whether this is a pharmaceutical or private business which may mean the information provided is meant to steer you toward using their products.
Take a look at these websites, social networking sites and mobile applications if you’re looking for credible information:
• Medline Plus, provided by the National Library of Medicine, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/
• Healthfinder, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.healthfinder.gov
• American Cancer Society Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AmericanCancerSociety
• AIDS.gov MySpace page, www.myspace.com/aidsgov
• CaringBridge Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CaringBridge
• PatientsLikeMe, www.patientslikeme.com
• Parents are the Key, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.facebook.com/cdcparentsarethekey
• WebMD mobile application, m.cdc.gov
• AIDS.gov mobile site, m.aids.gov
• MobiHealthNews, www.mobihealthnews.com