5 Kinds of Health Blogs

Photo credit: FidlerJan from morguefile.com

There are so many health blogs out there, how do you know who to read, who to link to and who to believe? Here are 5 kinds of health blogs to help you sort through and find the real gems.

1. Government agency based blogs. These come from the USDA (http://blogs.usda.gov/), the CDC (http://blogs.cdc.gov/), and the NIH (http://directorsblog.nih.gov/) among others. These blogs are wide-ranging in topic (covering everything in that agency’s domain), and professionally written for a lay audience. While they lack the personal feel of many individual blogs, they are generally well written and have an excellent research basis. Often the agencies use their blogs as a method of public outreach, whether it is sharing the success of summer lunch programs for low-income families, or the ever-popular CDC zombie blog, these blogs provide a more approachable face to big government agencies.  These blogs are a great place to start for general information.

2. Health blogs from major news outlets. NPR’s Shots (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/), and The New York Times’ Well Blog (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/?_r=0) are two examples. As with anything from a major new outlet, you’ll find quality writing and well-researched articles on mainstream subjects. You will also often find lively debates in the comments sections of some (but not all) posts and articles.  As they are part of the news media, you can expect that they will focus on current events and have a broad range of topics.

3. Blogs from single-focus organizations. Planned Parenthood (http://plannedparenthood.tumblr.com/), Livestrong.org (http://blog.livestrong.org/) (yes, ugh Lance Armstrong), and ScienceBasedMedicine (https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/) are examples of blogs with a more narrow in focus than the news media; concentrating on subjects directly related to their mission. The quality of the blog posts is generally proportional to the size of the organization; however small organizations can have excellent bloggers.  As these blogs are mission-focused, they tend to have more depth on that topic, be it reproductive health, cancer treatment or science in medicine.

4. Subject matter experts. Marion Nestle (http://www.foodpolitics.com/), Mark Bittman (http://markbittman.com/), and Dr. Michael J Joyner (http://www.drmichaeljoyner.com/) blog about their areas of expertise. These kinds of blogs are much more focused than those from big organizations, and usually don’t stray from their main topic.  However, some single-person blogs will be more personal, and may include non-subject matter posts. Depending on the expert these blogs can be well written, well researched and reliable. Or they can be of dubious accuracy. Which brings us to the last group:

5. The completely out of touch with reality blogs: NaturalNews, GreenMedInfo, whale.to. Want conspiracy theories with your natural mosquito repellant? Cure autism with bleach enemas and cancer with baking soda injections? These non-fact based blogs and websites have got you covered.  Some may appear to have reliable information, but will only link to themselves or very similar blogs.  (I have omitted links to these websites because I don’t want to drive traffic to these sites.)

Health blogs are certainly not limited to these five types, but they are a good way to start categorizing what you find on the web.  Ask yourself what kind of blog you are reading, and how reliable you think the information is.

Have I missed a type of health blog?  Tell me in the comments down below!


7 thoughts on “5 Kinds of Health Blogs

  1. What a great post, thank you for writing it! I think another category of blogs that I would add to your list are blogs from public health schools/academia sources. I have found those to be very interesting and relevant during my research

    • Luda,
      That’s a good point about academic public health blogs. I thought about including them with the ‘government’ blogs, but they really are their own thing.

      Another type of health blog I just though of is the “condition specific” blog, which is related to the “single-focus organization” blog. For instance, a blog for people with a specific kind of external artificial heart.

    • Great post! I like the way you break down the types of posts into an easy to read way for new readers. It makes the introduction to blogs not so intimidating. Also, I think seasoned, and really all, readers can benefit from your reminder to consider the validity of the of the source and the information available on blogs.

  2. Margot, this blog is great! It has all the information you need, as a reader, to get started in looking for health blogs and knowing how seriously to take them. You also embodied what’s needed to make a good blog – with your very individual voice and engaging style of writing. Another type of blog that could fit into either the SME or out of touch categories is the “health” blog that focuses solely on fitness and weight loss. Some of these are by real subject matter experts and others are just bizarre!

  3. Hello Margot, thank you for great resourceful post! Your categorization and grouping of blog types is very helpful for me, as a new blogger and blog user to navigate through Internet maze. I would add one more blog type posted by organic and whole food markets which they use as a way to reach out to their customers, cater to groups with special diets, build loyal shopping crowd, promote products and great recipes.
    As you have mentioned CDC zombie blog, I wanted to share that 2 years ago UC Irvine school run experimental classes based on “The Walking Dead” TV series where math, epidemiology, sociology and physics teachers taught students about basic survival methods, including proper nutrition and mental health during natural disasters, for curiosity this is the link: http://news.uci.edu/features/academics-take-on-zombies/

  4. Thanks Margot – this is a great round up of all the blogs to visit (and not to visit). It’s important to warn people that there is little regulation of the internet, which means there will always be blogs that convey information that isn’t true – and some that can give information that’s downright dangerous.

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