Evaluation the Reliability of Health Information on the Internet

The Internet offers a wealth of health information.  How do you know what is good information and what is less reliable?  Here is a checklist to assist in evaluation the website information:

Checklist for a great Health Promotion Website This checklist is an adaptation from Canadian Health Network[1] checklist put together in consultation with a panel of experts on health information from the eEurope 2002 quality criteria for Helath related websites[2] and from the Heath on the Net Code[3]
  Great health promotion website Beware – there are some issues with this website
  • Author’s name or organization responsible for the document is clearly stated, and is a professional or accredited authority on the subject
  • Name and credentials of all providers of information is provided
  • If medical information is given by a non-professional, this is clearly stated
  • Scientific studies and research endorse the specific treatment or service
  • sources for all information is provided with date of publication
  • The author is not a professsional or accredited authority on the subject and states his/her perspective on the subject (Eg. “I’m a cancer survivor”)
  • First-hand experience is the only evidence provided to endorse the treatment or service
Up to date?
  • Regular updating of the site, with date of last update clearly marked
No/not mentioned
  •  The content matches what you are looking for and has enough detail.
  • The information is present within a Canadian context 
  • The information seems superficial
  • The criteria on the left are not met
  • The author’s interest and/or mandate in developing and sharing this information is clear? (Non-profit organization trying to promote health versus company trying to sell you something?)
  • Both (or all) sides of the issue are presented, and if not, it indicates that it presents only one side of the issue
  • Ther is potential for bias or conflict of interest (For example, is a company telling that only their product or service is valuable?)
Adequate financial disclosure?
  • Commercial links and/or sponsorships are clearly stated and are separate from the health information content
No/not mentioned
Ensures privacy?
  • If the site collects or requests information about you, they tell exactly why they want this information and privacy guidelines are stated
No/not mentioned
  • The site offers a clear statement tat health information should not be taken as health advice or a substitute for visited a health professional
Broad view of health?
  • Eg.: recognizes that health has many elements, is dynamic and changing, can be different for different groups of people, and is determined by many factor
No/not mentioned
  • The information presented in a clear manner, and the site is searchable, readable and usable.
  • The author/administrator can be contacted by email for user feedback
  • The “voice” the site uses to talk to readers is respectful
  • The “voice” the site uses to talk to readers seems (for example) to place all of the responsibility for health on the individual and does not seem respectful

**This chart is an adaptation of one created by Dr. Miriam Lacasse

[1] Canadian Health Network, 2008 (no more available online)
[2]eEurope 2002. J Med Internet Res 2002 :4(3) :e15