What sources can you trust for health information?Proactive Health
By pH health care professionals
There is a seemingly bottomless well of health information online, both good and bad. You can Google your health concern of choice and find pages and pages of articles, ranging from researched to ridiculous.
You’ll find “magic cures” for just about anything, so they say. And it’s understandably easy to get caught up in the hype. Everyone wants better health! But how do you know whether these claims are credible and supported by objective scientific proof?
The truth is … you can’t always know for sure. However, with a little bit of digging, you can use the following criteria to assess the validity of your source and get a pretty good idea:
- Learn more about the organization sponsoring the website. Is the organization established, reputable and based on the expertise of trained medical professionals? Is the website run by a government organization (National Institute of Health, CDC, Drug Enforcement Agency, Environmental Protection Agency) or trusted commercial website? These are good places to start when looking for valid health information.
- Find out more about the author(s) of an article. What kind of education and experience does the writer or organization have? Is the writer an experienced university professor, an MD, a PhD, JD or other well-regarded health care expert? Newspapers can also distribute useful health information, but keep in mind, their understanding of the subject matter may vary.
- Assess the bias of an article. Do a little detective work to try to uncover the ultimate objective of what the article is trying to accomplish. Is it truly educational in nature? Or is it only a sales pitch?
- Is the information based on scientific research? The most credible articles generally pull their information from (and cite) research studies published in medical literature. The article should go beyond simply saying what is good for you, and explain the reasons why.
- Discriminate fact from fiction. Some authors do indeed refer to proper research studies. However, they may sometimes twist the findings of this research in order to prove their own assumptions. This can be tricky to recognize. If you don’t have the scientific experience and understanding to sift through a scientific paper to fact check, you can always do some cross checking – more on this in the next point.
- Compare to other credible sources. Is the article just standing on its own feet or did several other reputable websites publish similar findings? Is the study cited in the article the only one of its kind, or are there other studies with similar findings to give it more weight? Do these findings complement each other or are they contradictory? If something was researched over and over again with large populations, it is more much more likely that the findings are accurate.
- Is it an anomaly? If there is a single-case report on something, it may or may not be a true claim. However, if a large number of people truly experienced the benefits of something, it is more likely valid.
- Specialty organizations. Certain medical organizations and activists sometimes join together to provide the most current updates on particular medication conditions (e.g., Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, HepC.com). These organizations can help you stay abreast on the newest research and information out there. But again, it helps to look at the credentials and experience of the author.
It’s natural to get excited by a promise for a quick-fix, or to be drawn to the visual appeal of a well-designed website with catchy graphics, photos, audio and videos. But at the end of the day, you have to be your own gatekeeper, and make sure you are on your guard for faulty health information that may harm you. So what now? Simply apply some of the above tools to improve the quality of information you absorb, so you can find better answers for your health.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.