“The doctor of the future will give no medicines, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes and prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison, Inventor And Scientist
For the first time in history, more people get their news online than from newspapers. A great example was the recent U.S. election. In the media, the man that won had minimal support and traction. Yet, he won with overwhelming popularity. If you noticed his campaign, he used Twitter, YouTube for interviews, blogs, Facebook and other mediums.
What did he know that the everyone else did not? They knew this. The vast majority of people now get their information online. If you would like a sign of things to come, then understand that the average millennial is predicted to pick up their phone to check social platforms at least 40x per day!
Check this >> http://www.internetlivestats.com/
There are 3.2 million blog posts currently written online. When it comes to health and searching for health information, it would make sense that it is important to find out how to tell which website should be trusted for their opinion, right?
Many people are now turning to online sources for health and fitness information as opposed to books, medical journals, magazines or even seeing health professionals themselves as they did in the past.
Some claim that the most trusted and credible health websites are those that are funded by the government, educational institutions, medical organisations and non-profits. There are actually blogs written by health professionals and individuals who have lots of value to offer to the ongoing conversation about health and fitness.
With all the new media adding content on the information highway known as the World Wide Web, it is important to know how to determine if a health blog is credible.
Why Is It Important to Check the Credibility of a Health Blog?
Nothing is more important than your health. When it comes to researching healthy ways of living, eating and exercising it is good to know which sources of information are credible and which ones do not stand the test. New research regarding health, diet, exercise and nutrition is constantly changing. Most of the time it is independent news sources such as blogs and other online platforms who can share this information with the public in a quick and efficient manner.
Not every online source is created equal. There are many sites that are simply not credible, while others may not come from credible sources. If you are looking for new forms of medicine, nutrition, or exercise routines, then it is important to test the credibility of online sources.
What to Look for in a Health Blog
When it comes to bloggers, credible ones “add value to their fields with almost every post, utilising a mix of analysis, industry examples, and knowledge-sharing. They truly extend industry knowledge and conversations.”
According to the Maine Health Learning Center, here are 10 questions to ask when you are determining if a health website is credible or not:
- Does the website tell you who is responsible for the site? Are they accredited to give this advice?
- Is the website’s only purpose to give you information? Or, are they trying to sell you something?
- Is the health information on the website up-to-date?
- Is the information based on results from medical research? (evidence-based)
- Does the website give the source of the health information? Has the information been reviewed and approved by medical experts? Are there high-level, systematic reviews and references?
- Does the health information seem unbiased, objective, and balanced? Is it written in a professional manner using simple language?
- Overall, does the information seem reasonable and believable?
Here are some other questions to ask as well when checking the credibility of a health blog:
- Does the blog leverage expert information while leveraging other accredited sources?
- If you gave it to your doctor, would they read it?
- If you gave it to your mum, would she understand and be able to implement the information?
General Rules when it comes to credibility and “Hierarchy of Evidence”
Most health bloggers are getting quite good at using terms such as,“a recent study shows” or “the evidence suggests” or “expert opinion from so and so says that.” So this next piece is about helping you see through the mastery of words and get to the core question. Is this accurate? Is this reliable and valid in the health world? Is this useful and meaningful to me? Is it actionable? If I do action this advice, will I see a change? An outcome?
Firstly, scroll to the bottom of the blog and see whether the blog author has referenced any evidence. If they haven’t, then the answer is simple here. Secondly, understand what is “the best available evidence”? The hierarchy of evidence is a core principal of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) and attempts to address this question. The evidence hierarchy allows you to take a top-down approach to locating the best evidence. You first search for a recent well-conducted systematic review. If that is not available, then move down to the next level of evidence to answer your question.
What does this mean when reading a “credible health blog?”
Expert opinion is the lowest form of evidence and most of what we read.
- One thing we see in the online blogging world is that we now seem to have more experts than any other period of history.
- First, consider what defines an expert as well. As mentioned, check the background of the blog’s author. Example: If someone has a background in physical training (an 8-week online course) and is commenting on nutritional science, compared to a cohort of 20 nutritional experts, each with 20 years of practice and training. Who would you take nutritional advice from? It’s obvious, right? Below is an example of 2 different blogs.
- Ask or notice: Does the expert walk his or her talk? We believe that to know and not yet do, is to still not yet know. As an example, If you are seeing a doctor or allied health professional for weight loss advice, but they are overweight and part of the statistics. The simple solution would be to seek advice from someone walking their talk. If they “knew” the solution in its complete sense, then they would be actioning that in their life daily.
Systematic Reviews are the highest form of evidence
- Check to see if the blog has references.
- If it does not have references, then it is expert opinion. Knowing this is the lowest form of evidence, check their credentials and make sure they have the background to be commenting as an expert on “health issues.”
- If it does have references, then check if any of the resources are systematic reviews are referenced or mentioned. Also, make sure they are relevant to the topic being discussed.
As a practical test, after reading the blog, follow the two links below and comment which website, which expert, which blog is more credible. This will guide you on how to work your way through the “noise” of the health and wellness system. Who’s advice to listen to and who’s to politely smile and nod at, without any need to take on board at this stage.
General Rules when it comes to Credibility of Online Sources
When reading health blogs and searching for information online, it is important to filter through all the information with some general guidelines. For instance, you shouldn’t take health advice from someone who is less healthy than you. Also, someone’s individual experience and case study are not credible evidence of a larger health issue or solution.
If health blogs are simply trying to sell you or promote products on their website, it is a safe bet that you should be wary of any health or fitness claims. Health professionals are more interested in you and your health outcomes rather than promoting, advertising, marketing and selling products.
Some other guidelines for checking the credibility of health blogs include the idea that most credible health sources should focus on natural healing mechanisms as a baseline. Credible health blogs also focus on self-empowered change as well the medical principle of doing no harm.
Many new and exciting health blogs and online platforms are popping up on the internet. While the internet now gives us faster and greater access to cutting-edge information regarding health, diet, nutrition and fitness, it is up to us as responsible consumers to check the credibility of such blogs and websites.
If you cannot answer yes to many of the questions above while reading through these health blogs, it is safe to suggest that they may not be the most credible sources. It is important that you find credible sources online when it comes to your health and fitness.
It is also important to understand the parachute problem. Evidence-based practice has its limitations.
At the end of the day, do not spend your time searching for new and exciting health trends. Instead, seek to live a lifestyle that focuses on healthy daily habits, good food (with awesome nutrition), and practices that nourish your mind, physical body, and spirit.
Lastly, critique this blog article using the same information we share above. Is this sound and rational information to take on board? Or, like the majority of information that goes through our mind each day, should it be discarded as noise?
At fillyourcup, our search is for the truth and we understand that nothing is perfect. However, we believe in doing our best and being part of the solution. Not another part of the problem and the noise.
If you would like to collaborate, integrate or share your insights on health blogs, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are open to anyone on the same mission as us.
Expert opinion (remember low reliability)
- The Doctor Will See You Now: How The Internet And Social Media Are Changing Healthcare
- More People Search For Health Online
- Credible Health Websites
Evidence-based opinion (see hierarchy of evidence)