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Using the Web to Manage Your Health
There are thousands, if not millions, of health related websites on the World Wide Web. The problem is not in finding them, but in separating the wheat from the chafe. While there is a lot of health information on the Web, there is also a lot of health MIS-information! It's definitely a case of caveat emptor (let the purchaser beware). While you may be looking for information instead of purchasing it, you still need to make sure the information is correct.
A Web Example
While the information you need is probably out there, it will require a little work on your part to find it. I know a person (Aye) who had a family member (Bee) who was having some unusual health problems. The family doctor put it down to the classic reason when the medical profession doesn't have an answer-nerves. Aye, knowing Bee very well, didn't agree and consequently spent considerable time searching the Web for information on Bee's symptoms. Most of the information Aye found pointed in one direction. So, armed with print-outs from various websites, Aye marched off with Bee to their family doctor, who agreed Aye may be right. Subsequent medical tests confirmed the diagnosis.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own health. Health care should be a partnership between you and your doctor. The typical family doctor can't keep up with the growing knowledge about the human body and its illnesses. To do so would take a large portion of their waking hours. Several years ago, I was talking to my dentist about this. He said that he spent as many hours learning about new techniques in dentistry (attending courses and seminars, and reading dental journals) as he did actually practicing dentistry. The other problem health professionals face today, is the amount of time they are paid by medical plans to spend with patients doesn't allow for long explanations of the patient's condition and treatment. So, it is up to the patient to spend some time researching and reading about their medical problems if they want to understand them better and take part in their recovery or at least management of the condition. However, the Web is not the place to consult in a sudden illness, that's best dealt with by your doctor or in an emergency room.
Sample Health Websites
I have collected from various sources (friends, newspapers, magazines) a list of health related websites (see below). While I have looked at them all, I didn't have time to search through the whole of each and every site. As I'm not a health professional, I can't vouch for these sites, but they looked legitimate to me as a layperson. Also, I can't guarantee that these website don't have links to sites with false information.
Weblens, the first site on the list, is Pam Blackstone's website. Pam, who writes a weekly column on the Tech page of the local Times Colonist, has a large website featuring reference links in many different areas. The link below is to her page of health related links. The USDA Nutrient Database is a great resource. When I tried looking up cheese, first it asked me what kind (cheddar), next it asked me how much (1 oz.), then it gave me a very long list of everything good and bad for me in an ounce of cheddar cheese.
The following websites represent a sample of health information available on the World Wide Web. While they will get you started on your research, you may need to find other websites which deal more specifically with your particular health problem.
If you know of any more good, reliable health sites, please e-mail them to me <email@example.com>. I will check them out and add them to the list.
This article was originally published in the November 2000 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's column "VMUG On-Line".
Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).
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