Information on the Web
you confused by the amount of information on
immunizations on the Internet? Concerned about
the rumors linking vaccines and diseases like
diabetes and autism? Below are some tips to
help you navigate your way through all of the
information available and determine its accuracy.
do I know if the vaccine information I find
on the Internet is accurate?
consider the source of information.
good health Web site will display who is
responsible for the site. Also, there will
be a way to contact the information provider
Information should not be slanted in favor
of a Web site's sponsor or source of funding.
Health information should be accurate and
Then, ask the following questions:
scientific experts review the medical information
before it is posted on the Web site? What
are their credentials?
Does the information display the date of
last revision, and is it kept up to date?
What is the scientific evidence for claims
original source of facts and figures should
be shown. For example, the Web site should
provide citations of medical articles or
other sources of information. You should
be able to distinguish facts from opinions.
Also, facts are more reliable if they come
from a published scientific study on humans
rather than from unpublished accounts or
from reports of a single person or of animal
Next, consider the purpose of the Web site.
The purpose should be to provide accurate and
unbiased information about that topic. If the
purpose is to advertise about a health care
product, be skeptical about the information
discuss with your doctor or health professional
the information that you find on the Web. Health
information found on the Web should supplement
rather than replace the information or advice
given by your doctor.
Federal Trade Commission, an agency of the
U.S. federal government, encourages consumers
to carefully consider information they find
on the Web. The agency has compiled the following
list of typical phrases used by some Web sites
to deceive consumers:
product is a quick cure-all for a wide range
of medical problems.
The product is described as a "scientific
breakthrough," "miraculous cure,"
"exclusive product," "secret
ingredient," or "ancient remedy."
The product is claimed to have been suppressed
by a conspiracy of the government, the medical
profession, or research scientists.
Case histories are not documented.
The product is said to be available from
a single source or for a limited time.
The description uses medical lingo to hide
the fact it lacks good science.
there any regulation or standardization of
information on the Internet?
The Federal Trade Commission
The law enforcement efforts of the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) focus on deceptive and
unproven claims. The federal agency monitors
the Web for fraud and deception, and it can
act against a company if it sees a pattern
of law violations. To help make consumers aware
of Web sites that promote fraudulent products,
the FTC launched the campaign "Operation
Cure.All" in June 1999. The Web site for
the FTC is www.ftc.gov.
The Healthfinder Web site (www.healthfinder.gov)
is the federal government's gateway for reliable
information from U.S. government agencies and
other organizations. The site displays selected
resources of consumer health and human services
information. These sources have been reviewed
and found reliable and credible.
Health on the Net Foundation
More than 2,800 medical and health Web sites
are members of The Health On the Net Foundation's
a not-for-profit organization that has attempted
to standardize the reliability of information
on the Web. Member sites agree to present information
according to basic ethical standards and provide
readers with the source and purpose of the
data presented on the Web site.