Have you ever gotten health advice from a friend or relative and wanted to check it out on the internet? Have you ever had questions about vaccines and searched for information on the internet? There is plenty of health information online, but some of the information is not accurate or can be confusing. How can you tell what information sites are good and what sites you should avoid? Here are a few tips to guide your internet searches.
- Go to the experts. Just as you would not have a car mechanic fix an electrical problem in your house, we need to find the right health experts for reliable health information. Look at who is sponsoring the website. It might give you a clue about their goal. Hospitals and clinics, government agencies, and education systems are a good place to start. Look for web addresses that end in .edu or .gov.
- Watch for signs that the information cannot be trusted. If the website is trying to sell you something, be careful. The information may be written to get you to buy their product. If the advice is something that goes against what you have heard before, the information may lead you to something that is not true. If the website does not provide proof of what they say, look for some other good sources of information.
- Be aware that a person’s story can be emotional and persuade us to believe what they say, but their information may not be based on science. YouTube and social media sites have many stories but it is not always the place to find factual information. Because we do not know the medical background of the person telling the story, we are only hearing a small part of a larger situation. It takes an expert to put the facts together and come to an accurate conclusion.
So where can you start when you want trustworthy and reliable information about vaccines or another health topic? You can always ask your health care provider. They may have the answers and can direct you to additional information you can trust. The library is another place that can help you find accurate information. Ask the librarian to assist you to get to reliable websites. The Minnesota Department of Health has a list of trusted sources of immunization information. You can find that list at www.health.state.mn.us/immunize – search for “reliable information.”