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Is this health information good for me?

¡También en Español! ¿Como puede saber si la información le sirve?

In the field of health, we consider:

  1. Health news or information is best for you if you are just like the people being talked about in reports of research studies.
  2. The news or information should say who was involved in the study--what gender, age, disease…
  3. News or information about a good therapy should compare the new therapy and other therapies.
  4. There is usually new research to help you and your health provider make better decisions. If you have information older than about 3 years, try to find some more recent information to go along with it.
  5. A good health study should have involved lots of patients, especially for a common disease.
  6. Read the whole thing.
  7. Any article which shows 100% success or 100% failure is not honest!
  8. An article about one person and his or her health problem, success, or failure can't be used as good evidence for anyone else's situation.
  9. Read opinions on different sides before making a decision.
  10. Look not only for information on effectiveness of treatments, but also for information on side effects. The medical literature shows that sometimes no treatment (or a placebo) is better in the long run than treatment.
  11. It's good to look for agreement or consensus. There are many different opinions on any health topic, so we try to find a report that brings lots of knowledge together. These reports might be called review articles, practice guidelines, consensus conference reports, or meta-analyses.
  12. Another kind of agreement is simply an historic continuity, especially in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). If a therapy has been successfully used for hundreds of years, it's reasonable to put some credence in it. Similarly, if a therapy has been used across several cultures, that also shows consensus or agreement.
  13. It's difficult to design a study using academic scientific method in many traditional medical fields. For example, how does one have a control group in the study of acupuncture? The mind-body methods, prayer, and distance healing all depend on the orientation and opinion of the patient toward the treatment. Look for continuity in practice and cumulated evidence.
  14. The perfect article for you and your situation might not exist. We often have to work with the best evidence available.

Evaluating Online Resources

In looking at a web site on any topic, check these aspects of the site:

Authority - author, editor, board of directors
Contact Information
Content Accuracy
Currency
Purpose
Audience
Readability
Organization
Site Maintenance

Also, see the Medline Plus® Guide to Healthy Web Surfing

Thank you to the members of the NN/LM PNR Consumer Health Advisory Group who helped create this document.