Researching Your Health
Are you curious about the doctor's recent diagnosis? Unsure if you should be worried about new symptoms? We all have health questions from time to time, but discerning the good information from the not-so-good can be a daunting task.
The trick is to find the right information -- that is, information that's current, unbiased, and based on actual research. This research guide will help you learn how to get the answers you need.
The Internet is a great place to start researching your health question, but don't run off to Google just yet. There are a few very important things to keep in mind when doing any research on the web. For starters, anyone can put up a web page. You wouldn't take health advice from a stranger, and likewise you shouldn't believe everything that you read on the Internet. The following tips will help you sort out the wheat from the chaff.
When you find health information on the web, be sure to ask the following questions:
- Who? Who has put this information online? Check to see who runs the site; often this information can be found on the "about us" page. Lack of identifying information is a sure sign to proceed with caution. If there is identifying information available, check the sources. Is the content of the page subject to the scrutiny of an editorial board? Do the members of this board have medical credentials? The source of an online article can also be partially determined by looking at the 3-letters at the end of the web address. Government (.gov), nonprofit (.org), and education institution (.edu) sites do not have a financial incentive in providing health information.
- Why? Why is this information online? Look for a stated mission or purpose on the website. A nonprofit whose stated mission is to provide information and fund research on a particular health topic will have more motivation to give accurate information than a company attempting to sell their brand of vitamins. Be suspicious.
- When? When was this information posted? Medical research is ongoing and new research may be available on a given health topic. An authoritative medical site will make it clear when the information was posted.
The Health on the Net Foundation (HON) out of Geneva, Switzerland is attempting to standardize online health information with the HON Code of Conduct, or HONcode. Organizations that provide health information online can apply for HONcode certification. Before qualifying for HONcode certification, these websites must undergo a thorough review. Once the certification is received, these sites are then subject to yearly evaluations. Once a website receives the HONcode certification, they can display the HONcode symbol, making it clear to health researchers that the information on the website is accurate and timely.
These websites make the grade:
- MedlinePlus: This resource is provided by the National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus offers authoritative and timely information on medical conditions and treatments. Content is searchable by a keyword search, or users can browse topics, treatments, and even watch informative health videos directly from the website.
- The Merck Manual's Online Medical Library: The Merck Manual is published by the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., but the content is provided by a non-biased board of medical professionals. The entire content of this popular print resource is freely available on this website. This site is keyword searchable or users can browse the alphabetical listing of topics. Timely information is available on subjects ranging from conditions to medications. Both consumer and professional versions of the site are available via the above link.
- Mayo Clinic: The Mayo Clinic website is owned by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education. The express purpose of this foundation is to provide up-to-date health information so that the public can better manage their own health. The editors for this website include Mayo Clinic clinicians and educators from a wide spectrum of healthcare fields. Use a keyword search to find easy-to-understand information on diseases and conditions, symptoms, and treatments.
- HONsearch: Skip Google and use this search engine to find results from HONcode certified websites.
These print resources are available in the Springfield-Greene County Library. Print resources are up-to-date at the time of publication, but cannot be updated as often as online sources. Always check publication date to ensure timely health information.
- Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment: This resource is published annually by McGraw-Hill Companies. Each chapter covers a different disorder and is written by a specialist in the field. Very readable for the average layperson and more in-depth than many online sources.
- The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook: The Merck Manual is published by the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., but the content is provided by a non-biased board of medical professionals. Each section focuses on a specific disorder covering symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. This print resource is also freely available online (see "Internet Sources" above).
- Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary: The medical field is notorious for its use of jargon and complicated medical terms. A medical dictionary is the most effective means of navigating these complex linguistic waters. As with all things relating to medical research, the terminology is subject to change. Be sure to check the publication date of any dictionary you use to ensure an accurate definition.
Do you need an authoritative print resource but can't get to the Library? You can still access these resources through the Library's website. We subscribe to several databases that are chock full of great health information. Because we pay a subscription for these services you will need a valid Springfield-Greene County Library account number to access these resources from outside of the Library.
- Consumer Health Complete: Consumer Health Complete from EBSCOhost is a comprehensive resource that provides consumer-oriented health content. This database includes up-to-date reference material as well as full-text magazines, journals, and pamphlets from a wide variety of authoritative medical sources. Consumer Health Complete also subscribes to the HONcode principles of the Health on the Net Foundation.
- MEDLINE: Created by the National Library of Medicine, MEDLINE provides authoritative medical citations covering topics like medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the health care system. MEDLINE is also a comprehensive source for full text articles from thousands of medical journals.
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction.
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