I can’t count the number of times that I have heard of someone who’s said they’ve used Google to look up health content or learn more about their health (you may have even used Google to stumble upon this website 😉 ).
Although the internet is a powerful tool, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t just blatantly believe anything you read online.
Because people can just about make up anything and post it online.
Look at it this way, if you were sitting next to a man on a train and he started talking to you about a theory he has been working on and told you that eating oranges could cure cancer, would you believe him?
Now, I’m guessing you might be thinking that maybe he very likely could be a Dr. or some sort of medical specialist so he must know what he is talking about right? I mean, most people don’t know what T-lymphocytes or B-cryptoxanthin are. And it does sound fairly legit right?
Or maybe you are thinking that he is just crazy, and you’re secretly hoping he will leave you alone. I mean, there’s no proof that he’s a Dr. right?
Ok, so he may not be completely crazy because oranges do indeed contain a high amount of antigen B-cryptoxanthin. And oranges also help your body attack cancer cells and antigen-activated T-lymphocytes. Studies have even shown that the fruit may even significantly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer! But saying that oranges would cure cancer would be a big stretch.
But you see this is how some web authors trick you. They dress their web page up with fancy, professional clothes. Maybe they create a name that sounds medical or scientific. And they likely use medical jargon when presenting their content. Many authors may not even have a credential background, but you tell yourself that all of their posts and discussions sound reliable, so why not believe them?
You need to understand that some health writers know how to make you think that they know what they are talking about. But in reality, they are just making up BS.
It can also be quite comforting to read content online that provides some sort of resolution to your health problem. We live in a society that craves the “quick fixes”, so it is often easier just to choose the first web page that pops up and just believe it’s reliably valid info.
However, not everything on the internet is untrue. There is a vast amount of information online that is both accurate and credible.
But how do you distinguish between untrustworthy vs trustworthy health information?
1) ASK YOURSELF: WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THE HEALTH CONTENT?
Does the author of what you’re reading have credentials? What does the writer know about the topic? Is there proof of this knowledge? This type of information is essential in knowing if you can trust the information or not. Knowing this information can easily change your perception of the information, as you are more likely to believe a writer with a background in science or healthcare, versus a journalist reporting his or her findings.
2) LOOK AT THE DATE THE HEALTH CONTENT WAS POSTED OR PUBLISHED
Knowing the date of any type of health content is important because it allows you to determine if it is relevant or not. Research is always changing and evolving. Studies done in the past may not apply anymore so the health information that was written may no longer be accurate. Also, consider if the website has been updated recently. If it hasn’t, it might be an indicator that it’s not that reliable.
3) CHECK THE WEBSITE DOMAIN
Does the web page end in .com, .org, .net? If so, these pages can be purchased by anyone. However, this does not necessarily mean that these websites are not trustworthy.
If you are looking up any information about a particular health condition or treatment regimen, I strongly suggest you stick with the .edu and .gov domains because these domains are reserved for post-secondary institutions and government websites (so are the most reliable). And, if you are ever unsure about any particular health content, it is best to consult your Dr.
4) CRITIQUE THE WEBSITE DESIGN
Usually, reputable health information will come from a professional-looking website.
Ask yourself if the website is easy to navigate on the site? Is the site accessible? Is the content easy to read, or does the web page have distracting graphics or colors?
However, remember the man in the Dr.’s coat when questioning the web page? Because a nice web design does not guarantee that the content is valid.
5) REVIEW THE WRITING STYLE
If there are frequent grammar and spelling mistakes, chances are the content may not be credible. The information should also be easy to understand (unless it contains medical jargon) and has a natural flow of progression. Therefore, if the writing style is poor then it’s likely a good indicator that the site should not be trusted.
6) COMPARE THE HEALTH ADVISE TO WHAT OTHER AUTHORS SAY
It’s generally best not to completely trust the advice of a single source of information. Research what other authors are saying, then decide what to believe.
Are other author’s statements in line with what you’ve read? If there are any differences, ask yourself why this may be. Some authors may have biased beliefs, so it’s best to take that into consideration when judging the information.
WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE TO ASSESS HEALTH INFO.?