Article written by Olivia Jones Extension Agent Family and Consumer Sciences Currituck County
In 2012 consumers are faced with information overload, especially surrounding health-related topics. It is hard to sort out fact from fiction. Favorite search engines such as; Google, Yahoo, Bing and so on do their job well. But it is difficult to tell whether articles online are reliable or not. This is a job presented to all who use the search engine. So what makes an article reliable? There are a few guidelines to follow that can make anyone a savvy internet searcher.
First, look at who sponsors the website. A web address is not free, so the source of the website funding is usually found in the website address. As a rule, health websites sponsored by Federal Government agencies (.gov), large professional organizations (.org), and colleges or universities (.edu) are good sources. To find these sources, look at the last three letters in the website address for example fda.gov (the Food and Drug Administration). These sites are the most reliable because they are usually not supported by for-profit companies, such as drug or insurance companies. However it is still important to find out where these sites obtain their information. It should be cited at the bottom of the page.
Second, can the source of the information be identified? Any website that provides health-related information should identify where that information can be found. Most websites post information that comes from other sources. If the owner of the website did not write the information, the original source should be clearly stated. If the article contains statistics, the sources should be reliable and cited. If the website appears to be more opinion than fact, the person supplying the opinion should be a reliable doctor or medical organization.
Third, make sure the information is current. Health information is constantly changing as technology improves. Make sure the article is up-to-date. Most websites post the date on which the page was last updated or reviewed. It is usually found at the bottom of the page. If the date cannot be found check to see whether the page has a copyright line; this will tell when the information was originally written. If the information has not been reviewed in the last year, check other sites for more up-to-date information.
Following these guidelines will get the most accurate and reliable information, but it still may be hard to narrow down the choices. Here are a few websites that provide reliable health-related information:
healthcare.gov -Information about health care, health insurance and health care laws
cdc.gov -Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Medicare.gov –Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Cancer.org –American Cancer Society
Sources: the Federal trade Commission, and the National Institute on Aging
The Currituck County Center of NC Cooperative Extension extends to county residents the educational resources of NC State University and NC A&T State University. Both universities commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.
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