Tips for Evaluating Health Information

Health information is everywhere. In a typical day, over 6 million people search the Internet for health information. So, the big question is not where can you find health information, but rather, where can you find information that’s right for you? Whether it’s online, a book, counselor, class, or facility, use this 11-point list to determine what’s safe and healthy and what may not be.

Does this resource...?

  1. Share its credentials—and are they well-known and credible?
    Look for individuals who are credentialed by well-known organizations and for organizations associated with hospitals, universities or branches of the government.

  2. Give you choices of treatment or intervention?
    A good resource will make you aware of your options and encourage you to choose the one that best meets your needs.

  3. Avoid promoting a specific product?
    If not, money may be the motivator and the information may be inaccurate or one-sided.

  4. Seem too good to be true?
    If it seems unrealistic or too easy, it probably is.

  5. Meet your specific needs and interests?
    Not only will it be more valuable to you, it will also be a healthier option. This is especially important if you are pregnant, elderly, a child or if you have a chronic condition, previous injury/illness or other special needs.

  6. Make sense for you?
    Look for a resource that is consistent with your background, reading level and interests.

  7. Recommend an approach that you can stick with for a lifetime?
    For long term success, avoid resources that seem extreme or do not provide a well-rounded approach.

  8. Support industry standards, established medical policy and mainstream science?
    Contact your personal health care provider, Dow Health Services, or the nurse phone line provided by your benefits plan (e.g. Aetna’s Informed Health line at 800-556-1555), for help answering this question.

  9. Provide up-to-date information and recommendations?
    Medical information changes frequently. Be sure this resource is regularly updated to reflect current research and recommendations.

  10. Provide recommendations consistent with what you heard from your physician?
    Beware of resources that contradict what you have heard from your physician. Before trying new health recommendations, review them with your physician to be sure they are appropriate for your personal and family health history.

  11. Encourage you to ask questions and seek additional information?
    Few responsible organizations would claim to be the only source of information on a topic. Good resources should encourage you to examine how it applies to you, seek additional resources and information, and clearly understand the information or recommendations.

The ideal answer to each of these 11 questions is, “Yes.”
If a resource doesn’t meet all of these criteria, you may want to keep looking. There are many great resources to help answer your health questions, manage a chronic condition, or successfully make a behavior change. The next time you are trying to find a new health and wellness resource, use this list to pick the one that’s right for you.

SOURCE: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)