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Reliable links for health information

Rebecca Rivas

Getting a disease diagnosis for your self or a loved one can be daunting. The Internet can offer a window to medical information, but it’s critical to get reliable and up-to-date reports.

First and foremost are government sites, such as the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These sites provide credible overviews. People who search commercial public-sector sites should make sure the articles seem well researched with sources that are clearly identified and easy to verify with a mouse click. The article should be originally reported — not full of claims and mentions of studies that you can’t consistently confirm exist and are recent.

The National Library of Medicine also offers a guide on how to search the Web for medical information. It encourages heavy cyberskeptism. People should look for bias, especially from companies trying to sell their products.

They should also make sure the information is up-to-date and based in sound evidence, said Consuelo Hopkins Wilkins, outgoing director of the Center for Community Health and Partnerships of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“I strongly encourage everyone to learn about health conditions that they have and those that run in their families,” Wilkins said. “It’s important to get your information from trusted sources and never let the Internet be a substitute for a health care provider.”