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Connecting with reliable and free open access health information on the Internet


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Presentation given as part of "The Library is Open" initiative at McGill University (February 2014). Includes:
- links to trusted health resources
- guideline for evaluating online health resources
For more information on online health resources, visit McGill Library's Consumer Health subject guide at

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Connecting with reliable and free open access health information on the Internet

  1. 1. Connecting with reliable and free open access health information on the Internet Pamela Harrison Liaison Librarian McGill Library February 19, 2014
  2. 2. By the end of this session, you will be able to: Find reliable, free online consumer health information to answer your health and wellness questions Evaluate information that you find on the web Access a collection of books at McGill written for consumers on health and wellness topics
  3. 3. What is consumer health information… … and why use it?
  4. 4. Disclaimer: Online health information is not a substitute for consulting with a healthcare professional.
  5. 5. Sources of Reliable Consumer Health Information: Where to begin?
  6. 6. What is your starting when searching for point for online health information?
  7. 7. What is your starting when searching for point for online health information? Source: Fox, S. & Duggan, M. (2013). “Health Online 2013.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from media//Files/Reports/PIP_HealthOnline.pdf
  8. 8. Today’s starting point: McGill Library’s Consumer Health Guide bjects/health/consumerhealth
  9. 9. Spotlight 1 Image source:
  10. 10. Practice Search 1: Medline Plus You think your headaches might be migraines, and have made an appointment with your doctor. You would like some basic information on migraines before your appointment.
  11. 11. Practice Search 2: Medline Plus Your doctor has diagnosed you with migraines, and has suggested that you start taking Vitamin D supplements. You would like to know more about the connection between Vitamin D and migraine.
  12. 12. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia …for basic searches MedlinePlus Topics … for more detailed information Over 4,000 entries Over 900 topics ✔Photographs and illustrations Links to reliable sources on topic Links to Medical Encyclopedia entries and Medline Plus topics ✔ Links to Medical Encyclopedia entries and Medline Plus topics ✔ Update date ✔ Consistent subheadings ✔ Source information
  13. 13. Spotlight 2 Image source:
  14. 14. Image source:
  15. 15. Practice Search: Cochrane Summaries Your friend is thinking of joining a support group for people that want to stop smoking. You want to know whether support groups are proven to help people stop smoking.
  16. 16. Cochrane Summaries … for high-quality evidence ✔ Summary of systematic review ✔ Date of publication ✔ Links to related summaries: See ✔ “Health topics” ✔ “More like this”
  17. 17. Spotlight 3
  18. 18. Practice Search 1: Healthy Canadians You heard on the news that there has been a recall of dried eggs. You want to check if the dried eggs you have just bought are affected.
  19. 19. Practice Search 2: Healthy Canadians You are taking your niece out to go snowshoeing this evening, but are worried about her asthma. Check the air quality in Montreal before deciding whether to go.
  20. 20. Healthy Canadians … for Canadian content ✔ Canada-specific information: ✔ Product alerts and recalls ✔ Environmental information (AQHI) ✔ Health information: ✔ Healthy eating ✔ Parenting ✔ Safety: at home, outdoors, at work ✔ Date of publication ✔ “For more information”: Links to related Government of Canada resources
  21. 21. Other important sites Santé Montréal Portal: For local health and social services information Medbroadcast: For drug information
  22. 22. Evaluating health websites: 5Ws Case study: Canadian Cancer Society
  23. 23. • Who is the author? • Individual • Organization • Contact information • Who is the author citing? LOOK FOR: •Individual name / credentials •Organizational name •Contact information •Reference list
  24. 24. • What type of organization is this? • Government • University • Hospital • Non-profit organization LOOK FOR DOMAINS: • .gov,, • .edu • .org • ca: proceed with caution and vs.
  25. 25. • When is the information from? (This is not necessarily the © date.) LOOK FOR: •Dates •“Updated on” •Dates on cited references
  26. 26. • Where does the author/organization get its funding? … and how does this affect content? LOOK FOR: •Sponsors •Partners •Editorial policy •Editorial independence •Quality guidelines
  27. 27. • Why was the information written? LOOK FOR: •Mission Statement •Editorial Policy •About Us •(Medical) Disclaimer
  28. 28. Use your judgment. If it seems unreal, it probably is.
  29. 29. Additional help HONcode (Health on the Net Code) For more information, visit Image source:
  30. 30. Health information at McGill: The Wendy Patrick Collection At the Schulich Library Almost 1300 items: print collection Closer to another branch? Request a book via our catalog
  31. 31. Questions? Pamela Harrison Consumer Health Liaison Librarian 514-398-6272