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Finding Reliable Pediatric Health Information on the Internet

Many parents routinely surf the web for information about their children’s health, researching such topics as teething, toilet training and toddler tantrums. A trial Google search on teething brings up more than ten million entries, ranging from physician-sponsored websites to Wikipedia, parenting blogs and sites selling teething-related products. How can busy parents distinguish trustworthy sites from those that are questionable or downright unscrupulous?

The National Library of Medicine offers a short tutorial titled, “Evaluating Internet Health Information,” at: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/webeval/webeval.html. The first recommendation is to find the site sponsor. Is it a government agency, medical school, health-related organization or business? Consider quality. Does the site have an editorial board that reviews the information before posting it? A site’s “About Us” or “Mission” tab answers many of those questions. Also, contact information should be readily apparent.

Each section should display a review date at the end. If a site doesn’t routinely review and update its pages, you can’t be sure you’re getting the newest and best medical information available. Does the site sell health-related products such as vitamins or medical equipment? If so, that could make the information offered less than impartial. Be skeptical. Things that sound too good to be true usually are. You want current, unbiased information based on research, not emotion or opinion.

Here are five sites that consistently provide high-quality health information that is both reliable and objective.

American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains an excellent website for parents at www.healthychildren.org. It offers extensive information on childhood development at the ‘ages and stages,’ tab, as well as condition-specific information at the ‘health issues’ tab. Parents can register to receive periodic information and to create their own Family Health Center page. Always click on a website’s privacy policy to see how any information you provide may be used. The AAP website states collected information will be used only for the purpose stated at the time of collection.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC’s ‘Children” page at: www.cdc.gov/lifestages/children.html provides over two dozen distinct resources ranging from ADHD to autism, child development to childhood obesity, and immunizations and safety. The site offer many interactive features, including newsletters and videos. Pages show the most recent updates and list references for medical facts as applicable. The CDC is the governmental organization charged with protecting the nation’s health. The CDC’s home page explains privacy policies and mission in great detail. The site averages 41 million page views monthly.

Mayo Clinic
Maintained by the prestigious Mayo Clinic, this site lists its physician medical reviewers and provides a mission statement saying, “Our mission is to empower people to manage their health. We accomplish this by providing useful and up-to-date information and tools that reflect the expertise and standard of excellence of Mayo Clinic.” While the site does sell products and elicits referrals to its facilities, it also provides a wealth of information about disease-specific topics as well as social and behavioral topics such as step families, sibling rivalry, children and divorce, and single parenting. It also offers sections specific to preschoolers and school-age children at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/MY00383.

Medline Plus
Medline Plus is run by the National Institutes of Health's Library of Medicine. The site offers health information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in easily-understood language at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childrenshealth.html. It lists the editorial board, mission and quality guidelines. Consumers and parents can be sure they are getting highly-reliable and up-to-date information at this site. The children’s health page features dozens of convenient links to a variety of topics, such as sleep problems, alternative therapies, healthy eating habits and preparing children for doctors’ visits. The powerful search tool leads to videos, interactive tutorials and detailed information about the requested topic.

Nemours
Nemours is a pediatric health care system and one of the largest nonprofit organizations devoted to children’s health. It claims its site is the most-visited and trusted website for children’s health with 750,000 weekly visits. Nemours runs children’s hospitals and clinics in several states. While one purpose of the site may be to encourage use of its facilities, Nemours is considered a high quality site with excellent information. It’s actually four sites, with pages for parents, kids, teens and educators. The parents’ site is http://kidshealth.org/parent/, the children’s site is http://kidshealth.org/, and the teen site is http://kidshealth.org/teen/. The sections are highly interactive and include games, videos, quizzes, and experiments. The information is age-appropriate and the sites are safe for children and teens to independently navigate, although parents may wish to review the material first.

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