How can you tell reliable sources of health information from unreliable ones? 

Expert Answers
appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with many other topics, there is a great deal deal of information on health to be found on the internet these days. However, given the nature of the internet, it is necessary to determine the accuracy and reliability of any information one finds. While it is possible that any writer can do sufficient research to provide accurate and reliable information in any article on health issues, the safest bet is to use sources that come from accredited medical institutions or medical journals.

There is also the question of the kind of information one is seeking. It's never a good idea to rely only on an internet website for diagnosing an illness based on symptoms, for example. Even websites like WebMD.com suggest that any readers should consult a doctor for a diagnosis. And yet, websites like WebMD and MayoClinic.org contain very useful general information that is reliable and accessible. If one needs general information to guide one's inquiry, or, for example, to learn more about a disease or condition affecting a loved one, sites like these can be a good place to begin. Medical journals such as The Lancet or the New England Journal of Medicine are respected and reliable sources as well. In journals like these, one finds articles on the latest medical research being done on a wide variety of diseases and conditions, as well as articles about the latest healthcare innovations.

Finally, major newspapers such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal often report on the newest research found in medical journals. These well-known and respected newspapers which have won awards for journalistic excellence are reliable sources as well, in terms of beginning one's line of inquiry into a health related topic.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to add to this that advertisements, blogs, and answers on message boards are particularly bad sources of health information. Advertisements are completely self-serving, offering "information" meant to entice us to buy something. Blogs are written by individuals who often have no claim to any expertise. I could write a blog about brain surgery and how to perform it, even though I am not any kind of health professional. Someone who relied upon my blog would be in very big trouble. Answers on message boards about health are similarly problematic. They are simply individuals responding to a query on the message board, no credentials required. None of these should be sources to steer anyone concerning health matters, and none should be used as sources for writing about health matters, either.