How to navigate the web for good health information and advice?

Whether it is searching for information on a serious illness, healthy lifestyle advice, or simply to find out more about a specific symptom, the web is a wonderful source of reliable and trustworthy information. It is also a place where fools, sirens and charlatans peddle fictitious medical cures and dangerous health advice. This can make the shipwreck experience of an illness much worse, cost us a lot of wasted time and money, and can even seriously damage our health!

My strong advice is always to use a health Gateway Site* as your first port of call. A good Gateway Site will often have all the answers to our questions in one place. Rather than putting the symptom or illness name into our Google search, always go to a health Gateway first.

(* Gateway Sites (or Internet Gateways) are freely available web-sites that provide links to online resources which have been selected and evaluated by specialists and are designed to provide information in a form which we can all understand.)

However, be warned, not all Gateways are the same! Some are NOT trustworthy. Others are badly designed and impenetrable. In order to have confidence the information is accessable, reliable and trustworthy, the best health Gateways are kitemarked:

Health on the Net Foundation provides this HON Code Certification. Always look for this sign on any health Gateway home page!

Which are the best health Gateway sites?

In the UK the National Health Service provides an enormous amount of very good quality amount online information sources. However, the oceans of NHS information are so vast it is not always easy to find what one is looking for. Here are some helpful pointers:

NHS Choices : information on over 800 conditions including many serious illnesses.
NHS Direct : health advice dealing mainly with everyday symptoms.
NHS Live Well : for healthy lifestyle information and advice (very high quality and research based).

If we want to find all the above in one place, my recommended first choice is Patient.co.uk. This site does everything a really good health Gateway site should; the advice is trustworthy and reliable, and it is easy to find and understand the information being provided.

Another high quality ‘Gateway Sites’ is the US Government’s Healthfinder, which provides access to health information from a range of reliable sources and has links to other online databases.

For a complete list of all the health information databases which are available worldwide, including non-English sites, go to OMNI (Organising Medical Networked Information) research project based at the University of Nottingham lists them all! Sadly this research project has recently lost its funding so it will not now be being updated, but the existing online information should remain helpful for some time.

You need look no further – Happy Searching!

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