Social media can be a fabulous way to find approachable, easy-to-understand health information. I find that there are more and more websites that combine sexual health related information, politics and celebrity gossip – three of my favorite things – this gives readers exposure to health information that they may not specifically be searching for, but stumble upon while reading about the family drama between Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Solange. More exposure to accurate health information will always be a good thing for most people, that said, there is definitely a lot of ‘health information’ available on the Internet that is totally inaccurate. So how can we tell what health information is legit and what we should ignore?
The 3 best ways to recognize social media health sources as valid and trustworthy:
1) Collaboration and/or endorsement with an organization that you trust. If an organization has partners or has worked with other associations, it is very likely that this will be states on the website very clearly. This is clearly demonstrated by one of my favorite online health sources, Bedsider.org. This organization provides non-judgmental, accurate sexual health information and provides excellent information about picking a birth control method that meets the lifestyle needs of How do I know that Bedsider is as great as it seems? Bedsider partners with various well-known research intuitions such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA). This information is displayed on their website and provides links to research these organizations have conducted while working together. Knowing the Bedsider is an organization that these well-respected medical associations have partnered with gives me the
2) The public’s contribution to the website’s health information is closely monitored and mediated by a trained medical professional. We’ve all seen how public commentary on any type of web source has the potential to both enrich and endanger conversation and the quality of information being published on the site. In many cases it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between what is fact and what is opinion. One of the ways that I like to make sure that I am getting accurate information, is to make sure that whatever link I’m following is being written by some type of physician or health practitioner. An easy way to check is to just look them up! All states have medical boards where a person’s name or license and be easily searched. Even if you don’t find the state’s official license lookup site, I’ve found that it becomes obvious very quickly if a person is actually a practitioner or not. While it’s very true that many health professionals are unable to keep their personal opinions out of the medical advice they give, at least this way you’ll know that the information is accurate.
3) Location on Google search. The most popular sites that people visit most frequently will usually be higher on the list. While it is very true that a popular site may still be have inaccurate health information, making sure to get your information within the links found in the top 10 of a Google search list is usually a good rule of thumb. If the site you have stumbled upon is not found in the top 10, doesn’t collaborate with other well-known, trustworthy organizations and doesn’t clearly have medical professionals monitoring the information posted, maybe it’s time to find a new source for getting health information.