More than ever, people look to the internet first when they have questions about their health. This convenience is unprecedented and can be very helpful after the doctor’s office has closed or when people want to learn more about a specific condition or type of treatment. However, not all sources on the internet are accurate. You deserve accurate information about your health, and health literacy enables you to find quality sources.
When we define health literacy, we are referring to the process of sorting through information online to find the most accurate and up-to-date news about health and healthcare services available.
By having health information literacy skills, you can identify and avoid misinformation, interpret and understand health data correctly, and effectively find healthcare services that match your needs. When applied to understanding health conditions or drugs, health literacy improves your communication with your healthcare provider. You’ll know what questions to ask and know where to find credible sources for further details online.
In short, health literacy helps you make the best health decisions for you and your family.
Information about health conditions, treatments, drugs, and much more can be found on a wide variety of sites. However, not all of these sites have accurate or credible information. How can you tell the difference?
When you search online for answers to your health questions, you will no doubt find a treasure trove of information. It may seem overwhelming to go through these individually, but your health deserves the best information available.
The Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology website strives to offer comprehensive information about the cancers we treat and the methods we use to treat them. Here, we have provided links to some of the best resources available on the internet for questions that may not be answered on this site.
Knowing where to start is often the best way forward when you’re looking for information. Most government sites, which you can identify by URLs that end in ‘.gov’, are great resources for credible, up-to-date news and research findings.
These sources feature a wide array of healthcare topics:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
In addition, there are many different societies and organizations that provide excellent information about specific types of cancer. These cancer-specific healthcare sites are great resources to learn more about the type of cancer you want to learn more about.
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
Consider the source when you are looking at information. If you’re unsure where to start, visit the site’s “About Us” page. This page can tell you a lot about a website including information about the website operators, whether the information has been medically reviewed, how often the information is updated, and more.
Credible websites will include citations or references to the statistics and information which is presented on their website. These citations will generally be listed all together at the bottom of the webpage. Some pages will include in-line citations while others may not; either way, the information is generally credible as long as it can be traced back to the source.
Credible information is comprised of facts, not opinions. This can be tricky because sometimes opinions are presented as facts. If you’re unsure of whether a claim is fact or fiction, cross-check the information. Look at other sites which you know are credible. Information that is found on one site but is absent from or contradicted in others may not be accurate.
And remember – you can always ask your healthcare provider to clear up any questions you may have.
Determine the quality of a website by looking for key clues.
Remember that the “About Us” page can include a lot of valuable clues in identifying who is presenting the information on the website.
Bias can motivate the way the information on a website is presented. The “About Us” page may sometimes tell you who is the site’s founder and their background. From there, you can determine whether their history may influence the information on the website.
Product ads are prevalent on many websites and can be easy to overlook. Ask yourself when visiting a new site: are there a lot of ads for products related to the conditions being treated? If so, be skeptical of the information on the website. The information may be biased. Quality healthcare information will not include bias.
As is often said, “If it’s too good to be true, it likely is.” Keep an eye out for information that seems to offer cure-alls or remedies for multiple ailments.
Ask your doctor if you have questions about information that you are unsure about.
By improving your health literacy, you’ll have a better grasp of what information is valid and valuable. You will also be able to better communicate questions or concerns with your healthcare provider. In the end, good health literacy skills ultimately informs better decision-making about your family’s health.
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