Critical Evaluation of Health Related Website Discussion

You can’t always believe everything you read, so critical evaluation of health (or any) related websites is necessary to be sure you are getting accurate information.

Using the attached document, find a health-related website to evaluate.

You will need to completely answer each of the 10 questions about the website you select. Use complete sentences and at least a paragraph for each question–not just yes and no answers.

H1-4 Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web
Insel/Roth, Connect Core Concepts in Health, Thirteenth Edition. © 2014 The McGraw-Hill Companies,
It’s easy to get confused when searching for health-related information on the Web. The National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) suggests that you remember the
following ten questions when deciding whether a health-related Web site is authoritative and useful.
1. Who Runs the Site? Any reliable health-related Web site should make it easy for you to learn who is
responsible for the site and its information. On the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Web site, for
example, each major page clearly identifies NIH and includes a link to the site’s home page. The National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Web site follows the same practice;
because NCCAM is part of NIH, the NCCAM site’s major pages also link to the NIH homepage.
2. Who Pays for the Site? It costs money to run a Web site. The source of a Web site’s funding should be
clearly stated or readily apparent. For example, Web addresses (such as NCCAM’s) ending in “.gov”
denote a government-sponsored site; “.edu” indicates an educational institution, “.org” a
noncommercial organization, and “.com” a commercial organization. You should know how the site pays
for its existence. Does it sell advertising? Is it sponsored by a drug company? The source of funding can
affect what content is presented, how the content is presented, and what the site owners want to
accomplish on the site. For example, if a site about osteoarthritis is funded by a manufacturer of a drug
or dietary supplement that people might use for this condition, the sponsorship could affect the site’s
content. If the funding source is unclear, or if it is a person or an organization with a proprietary interest
in the information presented, try to confirm the information else- where (for example, by checking
studies published in scientific journals or government-sponsored Web sites).
3. What is the Site’s Purpose? The site’s purpose is related to who runs and pays for it. Look for an
“About This Site” link on the home page. There you should find a clear statement of purpose, which will
help you evaluate the trustworthiness of the site’s information.
4. Where Does the Site’s Information Come From? Many health and medical sites post information
collected from other Web sites or sources. If the person or organization in charge of the site did not
create the information, the original source should be clearly labeled.
5. What is the Basis of the Site’s Information? In addition to identifying who wrote the material you are
reading, the site should describe the evidence (such as articles in medical journals) that the material is
based on. Also, opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from information that is “evidence-based”
(that is, based on research results). For example, if a site discusses health benefits people can expect
from treatment, look for references to scientific research that clearly supports what is said. Keep in mind
that testimonials, anecdotes, unsupported claims, and opinions are not the same as objective, evidencebased information. Remember: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
6. How is the Site’s Information Selected and Reviewed? If a Web site is presenting medical information,
people with credible professional and scientific qualifications should review the material before it is
posted. Check for the presence of an editorial board or other indications of how information is selected
and reviewed.
7. Is the Site’s Information Current? Web sites should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It is
particularly important that medical information be current because outdated content can be misleading
or even dangerous. The most recent update or review date should be clearly posted on every page or
with each article. Even if the information has not changed, you will see whether the site’s owners have
reviewed it recently to ensure that it is still valid.
8. Does the Site Provide Links to Other Sites? Web sites usually have a policy about establishing links to
other sites. Some medical sites take a conservative approach and don’t link to any other sites. Some link
to any site that asks, or pays, for a link. Others only link to sites that have met certain criteria.
9. Does the Site Collect or Use Your Personal Information? Web sites routinely track visitors’ browsing
paths to determine what pages are being viewed. A health Web site may ask you to “subscribe” or
“become a member.” In some cases, this may be so that it can collect a user fee or select information for
you that is relevant to your concerns. In all cases, this will give the site personal information about you.
Any credible site asking for this kind of information should tell you exactly what will and won’t be done
with it. Many commercial sites sell “aggregate” (collected) data about their users to other companies—
information such as what percentage of their users are women older than 40, for example. Some sites
may collect and reuse information that is “personally identifiable,” such as your ZIP code, gender, and
birth date. Be sure to read any privacy policy or similar language on the site, and don’t sign up for
anything you don’t fully understand.
10. How Can You Interact with the Site? You should always be able to contact the site’s owner if you run
across problems or have questions or feedback. If the site hosts chat rooms or other online discussion
areas, it should explain the terms of using this service. Is it moderated? If so, by whom, and why? Spend
some time reading the discussion before joining in, to see whether you feel comfort- able with the
SOURCE: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010. Evaluating Web-Based
Health Resources
Insel/Roth, Connect Core Concepts in Health, Thirteenth Edition. © 2014 The McGraw-Hill Companies,

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