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:
- Health news or information is best for you if you are just like the people being talked about in reports of research studies.
- The news or information should say who was involved in the study--what gender, age, disease…
- News or information about a good therapy should compare the new therapy and other therapies.
- 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.
- A good health study should have involved lots of patients, especially for a common disease.
- Read the whole thing.
- Any article which shows 100% success or 100% failure is not honest!
- 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.
- Read opinions on different sides before making a decision.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.