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PositiveTip for

How to Avoid Bad Health Advice Online

The worst weight-loss websites often appear on the first search page.

Health news researchers rated the weight loss advice on 103 websites according to evidence-based criteria. Health blogs, government, medical and academic websites had the highest quality information while 80% of websites were below average. Unfortunately, 90% of all clicks usually originate on the first page of search results, which is where websites with poor information and unrealistic weight loss claims were most likely to appear.

PositiveTip: Read internet health advice critically, check the sources and skim (or skip) the first page of search results.

So What?

Sample Health Tournament

In our last blog post we learned the most critical stage of “filtering the firehose” of health information: knowing what health info you can trust.

However, that can still leave us with a LOT of solid health advice. The firehose is still spewing more than we can drink, so we ask our second filter question: So What?

This question is focused on personal relevance. Even if you’ve found information from a trusted source…so what? How is it relevant to your life?
The key to answering So What?...is knowing your health goals.

Health Goals Tournament

Here’s a tip from the book The On-Purpose Person to prioritize your health goals. Run a tournament; a health goals tournament.

Now What?

Now what...choosing what to do with new health information

We’ve been filtering the firehose of health information with some simple questions.

Q: Know What?
A: Rely on what trusted health sources claim.

Q: So What?  
A: Focus on relevance; choose health info that supports your personal health goals.

The next logical question is...

Now What?

It’s a simple process of making one of three choices:

  1. Forget it: Discard info that's untrustworthy or doesn’t touch any of your top health goals
  2. File it: Remember info that is preliminary but trustworthy, or matches your interests or experience.
  3. Follow it: Act on info that has a rock solid source that supports a top health goal.

In Practice

Here's an example of the process from a health area that’s deluged in “over-information”: exercise.

Know What?

Examine your health sources closely

In my last blog post, I gave an overview of how to “filter the firehose” of health information overload. You don’t need to know it all; you only need to know enough to make positive choices for your health. It requires filtering for trusted information you can act on. I suggest using a three question filter.

  1. Know What?
  2. So What?
  3. Now What?

Today we’ll get deeper answers to the question of “Know What?”. 

“Know-It-All’s” try to know everything. “Know-Enough’s” try to know what is trustworthy.

Finding trusted health sources is the most critical part of our firehose filter. It requires filtering our own biases and examining the trustworthiness of health information.  

Can I Trust Myself?

"Know-It-All" or Know Enough

Woman receives advice from her doctor

If you're like me, you can often suffer from health information overload. We both want to make positive choices about our health. However, one Google search can explode into a plethora of passionate predictions from doctors, health researchers, naturopaths and snake-oil salesmen leaving you with a mountain of “irrefutable” yet often contradictory advice. Never mind the TV health pundits, alarmist magazine stories, forwarded emails and the latest cure-all from your family's “health-nut”.

Sigh.

It's like trying to drink from a fire hose on full blast.

What to do? How do you satiate your thirst for quality health info without getting drowned in the process?

The truth is you can know enough to make healthy choices. You don't have to be a “Know-It-All” and drink it all. Just become a “Know-Enough” and filter the fire hose so you can drink enough to slake your thirst.

Beware the Epidemiologic Dragon

A recent online health service noted that “40% of cancers are due to avoidable life choices....Tobacco causes 23% of [cancer] cases in men and 15.6% of cases in women. The next largest cause of cancer in men was lack of fruits and vegetables in their diets...”

Hold it right there! When someone says that a certain activity “causes” another event to occur, it should be backed up by some very good studies in one of two ways. One method is for a group of people to be given activity A and then monitored for specific result B, and then the same group of people not to be allowed activity A and again monitored for result B.

PositiveTip for

Bad Antibiotic Information on Twitter

Double check tweets for misinformation about antibiotics.

Have you ever had a question about symptoms or medications? Do you go to the internet to find answers? 

Researchers from Columbia University analyzed more than 1000 tweets on Twitter in an effort to see what kind of information was being shared about antibiotics. Not surprisingly, some tweets offered to share medications with friends, asked what to do with leftover pills, and inquired how to stretch their antibiotics as long as possible!

PositiveTip: Carelessness with antibiotics can be serious. Confirm all medical information from social media with your healthcare provider.