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Dragonfly November 13th, 2019
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Feb

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Consumer Health Minute: Health Information Evaluation

Posted by on February 20th, 2019 Posted in: Health Literacy/Consumer Health, Public Libraries
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Do your patrons look for health information on not so credible websites? Are they asking for the latest diet or weight loss books? Are they fans of celebrity doctors who have their own TV show or website? Do they follow celebrities who like to provide their fans with ‘professional’ health information? Do you cringe inside when they specifically request such items? It can be a teachable moment to provide some evaluation tips during the reference interaction. In addition, consider providing this information by the computers or as a handy bookmark.

The NNLM provides the ABCs of website evaluation:

  • Accuracy: Is the information based on sound medical research? Are sources sited reliable and authoritative?
  • Authority: What are the credentials of the author? What is the domain name? (.edu or .gov has more authority than .com and not all .org websites are credible as there is no regulation)
  • Bias/Objectivity: Is advertising clearly marked? Who is sponsoring the webpage? Do the graphics, fonts, and information play to the reader’s emotions?
  • Currency/Timeliness: When was the information last reviewed or updated? Do the links work?
  • Coverage: Is the information complete? Are sources given for additional information?

Do all websites or publications need to meet all these criteria to be reliable sources of information? No, but the more that are met the more your patrons can trust them.

The ABCs of website evaluation can be used without permission to create table tents, bookmarks, signs to keep your patrons aware of the quality of the health information they are accessing.

Trust It or Trash It:

This method of evaluating health information uses straightforward and plain language which your patrons might find easier to remember. Trust It or Trash It was developed by the Access to Credible Genetics Resource Network, a cooperative agreement funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More detailed information is provided on the website but the basics are listed here.

  1. Who said it?: Who wrote it? Who paid for it?
  2. When did they say it?: When was it written or updated?
  3. How did they know?: How do you know if this information pertains to you? Does the information seem reasonable based on what you’ve read or know?

The information is also provided in Spanish. Unless noted, the content on the website is under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Image of the author ABOUT Carolyn Martin
Carolyn Martin is the Consumer Health Coordinator for the NNLM Pacific Northwest Region. She works with various libraries and community organizations to increase health literacy in their communities.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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