Way back, when I first started my quest for information, the internet was fairly new, very slow (dinosaur dial-up) & totally un-patrolled. I returned a TON of results when I searched for health topics but there was no real way to separate the trash from the treasure.
Since then, several organizations have popped up to police for reputable versus crap content, and I wanted to share a few things to make your information quest a little safer!
A good place to start looking is the web address you’re using: “.com” stands for ‘commercial’ and the sponsor is usually a business. Many hospitals and other reputable businesses have .com site addresses. Before you commit to anything on the site, or adopt information as gospel, check the credibility of the business.
“.org” stands for ‘organization’. Nonprofit groups & scientific/research societies often use it. BEWARE–scammers know the average web cruiser trusts a .org site and will use one to scam you. No matter WHAT the suffix on the address, know the organization behind it, especially if you’re using it for something pertinent to your continued health.
“.gov” is reserved for government agencies. How much one trusts these depends on his/her opinion of ‘government’. I’m gonna leave that one alone now……
“.edu” is the suffix for educational institutions such as colleges and universities. The information is often reliable as long as it is an ACTUAL official document/page from the institution. If you have any concerns, contact the institution to confirm before committing to anything.
“.net” stands for ‘network’. This is for sites which don’t fall under any other catagory. Some .net sites belong to individuals (who may or may not be kowledgable on the topic) and hosted by their ISP.
**WARNING** If the site does not offer any way to contact a living human within an organization, STOP and navigate AWAY FROM THE PAGE. Also view the “About Us” or “Who We Are” pages; if it smells fishy, then it probably ain’t right.
The Medical Library Association maintains a list called “Top 100 List of Health Websites You Can Trust”. It’s a good place to start from and I feel better about the sites I navigate TO when I start on a reputable page. I also look for The HONcode seal which is typically found at the bottom of a certified site’s page. This means the site has been approved by the Health on the Net Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to certifying web sites that meet high-quality standards for providing health information.
This information is just the tip of the iceberg where information safety is concerned. Overall, I encourage you to search widely, keep an open mind and check Quack Watch before buying anything you find offering a cure…