Sharing Reliable Health Information
You hear and read health advice all the time—from friends, online sources, radio, TV, and more. How do you know what health information you can trust? The recent issue from NIH News in Health, based on research supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health — the nation’s medical research agency, marks the 10-year anniversary of the monthly newsletter. Every article is carefully reviewed by NIH experts, so you can be confident that the health news you read here is trustworthy.
So far, they’ve written 600 articles on all kinds of topics ranging from healthy eating and physical activity to the microbes within you, personalized medicine, and the hazards of stress.
People love exchanging health information. More than half of adults nationwide say they turn to friends or family for health information or support when facing a serious health issue. People also share health information within their communities—at school, work, places of worship, and various events.
The quality of the health information you get depends on the source. “When looking online for health information, it’s a good idea to start with reputable websites, such as government websites,” says NIH’s Stephanie Dailey, who specializes in sharing health information with older adults. “Government agencies have well-researched information that’s been vetted by expert scientists and doctors.”
“Students and others can be drawn to websites with quirky or ‘amazing’ health stories that may be inaccurate,” says Timothy Keady, who heads the student wellness center at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “We always try to steer them back toward more appropriate health information that’s based on science. We know that information from NIH, the CDC, and other agencies is going to be accurate.”
Like all the information available from NIH, the stories in NIH News in Health undergo multiple levels of review before you ever see them. Researchers interviewed for each story read and comment on draft articles to make sure they’re correct. NIH health and science experts also review each story before it’s published. The goal is to give you reliable, science-based information so you can make informed decisions about staying healthy and seeking medical care.
It is not just SearchAmelia who shares these stories furnished by NIH. Their articles are shared in many different ways. Teachers in California and elsewhere have shared stories with their students on how sleep affects learning and health (Why You Need a Good Night’s Sleep and How Snoozing Strengthens Memories). A middle school nurse in Texas copies and shares articles with school staff and makes the newsletter available to visiting parents. And the staff of a hospital in Montana says they read the online version and discuss the newsletter’s stories, which ultimately helps to improve their conversations with patients.
Community health clinics, senior centers, libraries, and nonprofit organizations across the country share copies of NIH News in Health with their communities. In Florida, the Franklin County Health Department distributes the newsletter to patients and staff in 2 rural, remote public health clinics. At the Friend Family Health Center in Illinois, NIH News in Health is shared at large neighborhood clinics in the southeast and southwest sides of Chicago.
In the Rocky Mountains, a nonprofit agency has been sharing NIH News in Health with older adults and their caregivers for nearly a decade. “The newsletter regularly offers relevant health information for our seniors. It’s something they really look forward to each month,” says Stephen M. Holland, director of the Upper Arkansas Area Agency on Aging, based in Salida, Colorado. The newsletter is available at the agency’s meal sites. It’s also given to older adults who receive home-delivered meals. “Although some of our participants are active users of the Internet, others for the most part are not computer literate, so they really rely on the printed information,” Holland says.
In rural Oregon, copies of NIH News in Health are distributed to a largely Native American community by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a tribal organization that provides a range of services, including home health care visits and transportation to medical facilities. “We place the newsletter in our elders’ meal site and in the lobby of the community health clinic, in adult foster care, and next to the pharmacy, so people can read it while waiting for prescriptions,” says community health director Kari Culp. “We’ve found the newsletters to be very informative and much appreciated by our community members and also our medical staff.”
Many people share health information by putting it where people are waiting and where it will be seen. At several colleges and universities, for instance, officials have been placing easy-to-read health information in common bathrooms—an approach sometimes called “stall talk.”
No matter where you gather and read health information, it’s a good idea to discuss what you’ve found with your health care provider. Your provider can help you understand and interpret what you’ve found.
“Being well informed about a condition can be helpful when you visit your doctor,” Dailey says. “You may wish to print out some of the information you find to share with your doctor during your appointment.”
Contributed by News in Health NIH
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations). Special thanks to the many writers and creative talents who have contributed to NIH News in Health over the past decade.