A Google search for health or medical information will turn up a long list of results, probably running into many thousands, but there is no guarantee that any of the ones revealed will yield the best information. Use of the following key sites should improve the quality of information found and reduce the time spent staring at the small screen. And most of it is free!
Written by doctors and reviewed by an independent board.
Best Health www.besthealth.bmj.com
Easy-to-understand website from the British Medical Journal.
Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.com
A not-for-profit medical practice with hospital and research facilities across the US.
NHS Choices www.nhs.uk
The website of the UK National Health Service.
Informed Health Online www.informedhealthonline.com
High quality, research-based, independent health information.
Patient UK www.patient.co.uk
Comprehensive health information from doctors and nurses.
A directory of articles from the US National Library of Medicine.
A portal linking to many other high-quality healthcare websites.
Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov
A wide range of health information from the US Government's Centers for Disease Control.
For further detailed advice about searching for health information on the internet, and for a list of the 50 best rated health sites in a variety of categories, check out the following sites.
The best links:
The best portals:
For medical research rather than health information, use Google Scholar at: http://scholar.google.com/ or UK PubMed Central at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed The latter is an online archive of more than 500,000 peer-reviewed research papers in the medical and life sciences.
Wherever one goes on the internet in the search for health information, one needs to maintain a healthy scepticism. Those with commercial and other interests have very subtle ways of promoting their own special agendas.
For example, patient support organizations for individual illnesses may seem like an obvious source of trustworthy information, but searchers should be aware that some support groups are not as independent as they may appear, being funded - often covertly - by drug companies, so the information presented may not be as impartial as one might expect.
Using a tactic known as 'astroturfing', drug companies exert pressure on patient groups to promote their pharmaceutical products to unwitting enquirers who think they are getting unbiased information on their condition.
GlaxoSmithKline, for example, was caught 'astroturfing' the Ekbom Syndrome (Restless Legs) Support Group, whose website described the company's drug ropinirole (later called Adartrel) as an effective treatment for the problem - months before the drug was even approved!
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