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7t22t2014 Find ng and Eva uatng On fe Resources NCC h

u S. Deparhent of Heath ard Urman Se ces

Nat onal lnslitLles of Heath

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Finding and
Evaluating Online
On This Page

' What's the Bottom Line?

r Are You Beading News orAdvertising?
r How To Protect Yoursel, From Fake News Sites
. More lo Consider
. For L4ore lnformation

. Key References

What's the Bottom Line?

How much do we know about online resources for complomentary health approaches?
The number ol Web and social media sites, along with mobile apps, offering health information about
complementary and integrative heallh approaches (often called coJnp"lgrcE9ry,,Cnd,ellqfelue-meqi-cJ:l-e)
grows every day.

What do we know about the accuracy ofonline health information?

r Some online sources of jnformation on complementary health approaches are useful, but others are
inaccurate or misleading,
r Don't rely on online resources when making decisions about your health. If you,re considering a
Sgmp&Irc-LBryl1q4LtlEpplgach-, discuss it with your heatth care provider.

htlps //nc. h nih gov/heallh/


7t22t2A1a Fiodr.C and Eva uatng On ine Resources NCC]I-I

Checking Out Online Sources of Health lnformation: Five eujck euestions

lf you're vis:ting an onrine hearth site for the first time or downroading a new app,
ask these five questions:

1. Who runs or created the site or app? Can you trust them?

2. What is the site or app prornising or offering? Do its ctaims seem too good
to be true?
3. When was its informalion written or reviewed? ls it upio-date?
4. Where does the information come from? ls it based on scientific research?

5. Why does the site or app exist? ls it selling something?

Finding Health lnformation on ihe lnternet: How To Start

r To find accurate hearth information, start with one of these organized

coflections of high-quarity resources:
. MedlinePlus, sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, which is part
of the National lnstitutes of
Health {NlH)
r, sponsored by the office of Disea.e prevention and Hearth promotioo
in the u.s.
Department of Health and Human Serv,ces.
r lf you're lookjng for jnformation about complementary and integrative
health approaches:
. Use the National Center for Comptementary and lntegrative Health (NCCIH)
Web site as a stading point.
NCC'H is the Federar Governmeni's read agency for scientific research
on comprementary and integrative
health approaches.
r Follow NCCIH on Facebook, Twitter, pinterest, and Instagram. These
accounts are updated and managed
by NCCIH and provjde the latest resources on a variety of complementary
heatth approaches.

' For information on ciglqly supprqmen_tg, visit the NrH office

of Dietary supplements web site.

' For additionar reriabre resources lrom Federat agencies or the

worrd Hearth organization on comprementary
health approaches, visit NCCIH,s Links to Other Organizations page.

Finding Health tnformation on Social Media

t About one_third of American adurts use sociar networking sites,

such as Facebook or Twitter, as a source of
health information. tf you do:
. Check the sponsor,s Web site.
i Hearth information on sociar networking sites is often very
brief. For more information, go to the sponsoring
organization's web site. on Twitter, rook for a rink to the web site in
the header; on Facebook, rook in the
About section.
. Veriry that social media accounts are what they claim to be.
r some sociar networking sites have a symborthat an account has been
verified. For exampre, Twitter uses a
blue badge.
. Use the tink from the organization,s official Web site to go
to its social networkino sites.

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7t22t2a1A F nding and Eva ualtng o.ine Resources NcctH

Finding Health lnformation on Mobile Health Apps

r There are thousands of mobire apps (a software program you access

using your phone or other mobire device)
that provide hearth inrormation you can read on your mobire devices.
Armost 20 percent of smartphone owners
had at least one health app on their phones in 2012.
. Keep these things in mind when using a mobile health app:

The content of most apps isn't written or reviewed by medicar experts

' and may be inaccurate and unsafe.
ln additjon, the information you enter when using an app may not be
r There's tit e research on the benefits, risks, and impact of healih apps,
such as the many mlllqlrlllless
m_ejitatig! apps that are now available.
r lt's nol always easy to know what personal information an app will
access or how it will store your data.
' Before you download an app, find out if the store you get the app
from says who creaied it. Don,t trust the
app if contact or Web site information for the creator isn,t available
. Some reliable health apps created by Government agencies
can be found by visiting:
. U.S. National Library of Medicine
. Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
. For more information on mobile health apps and safety,
see these FederalTrade Commission Web pages:
! Understanding Mobile Apps
! Aplicaciones m6viles: eu6 son y c6mo funcionan.

some ofthe hearth information you'r find onrine is in the form

of news reports. some of these reports are
reriabre, but others are confusing, confricting, or misreading,
or they may be missing important information.
find out how to evaruate news stories about comprementary
hearth, visit our interactive modure Know the
Science: The Facts About Health News Stories.

More Questions To Ask When Finding Health lnformation

on Web Sites
Your search for onrine hearth information may start at a known,
trusted site, but after forowing severar rinks, you
may find yourserf on an unfamiriar site. can you trust this
site? Here are some key questions you need to
Who runs and pays tor the Web site?

r Any reriabre hearth-rerated web site shourd make it easy

for you to rearn who,s responsibre for the site. For
example, on the NCCIH Web site, each major page identifies
NCCIH and, because NCCIH is part of NlH,
provides a link to the NIH home page. you should
be able to find out who runs a Web site and its purpose
the "About Us', page.
. A Web address (such as NCC|H,s)that ends in,,means
it,s a government-sponsored site; ,,.edu,,
indicates an educational institution; ,,,usually means
a noncommercial organization and ,,,a
commerciar organization some " org" sites berong to organizations
that prom;te an agenda; their content
may be biased_

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7t22i2014 Fnd ns and Evahratiiq O.lne ResoLrces INCCIH

. Who pays for the site? Does the sjte sell advertising? ls it sponsored by a cornpany that solls dietary
supplements, drugs, or other producls or services? Confirm any information you find on a site that sells
products with an independent site that doesn't sell products.

What's the source of lhe infotmation?

. Many health or medical sites post inlormation collected Jrom other Web sites or sources, whjch should be
identified. For example, the Health Topics A-Z page on the NCCIH site provides links to documents that
NCCIH didn't create-bui we name the sources oflhe documents.

How do you know lf the information is accutate?

. The site should describe the evidence (such as ariicles in medical journals)that the material is based on. Also,
opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from information that,s ',evidence-based,, (based on research
results)- For example, iI a site discusses health benefits you can expect from a treatment. look for references
to scientific research that clearly support what's said.
. Keep in mind that testimonials, anecdotes, unsupported claims, and opinions aren't the same as objective,
evidence-based inf ormation.

ls the information reviewed by experts?

I You can be more confident in the quality of medical inlormation on a Web site if health experts reviewed it.
some web sites have an editorial board that reviews content. others put the names and credentials ol
reviewers in an Acknowledgments section nearthe end oJ the page.

How currenl is the information?

r Outdated medical information can be misleading or even dangerous. Bosponsibte health Web sites review and
updale much oftheir content on a regular basis, especially fact sheets and lists ofJrequenfly asked questions
(FAQS). However, content such as news reports or meeting summaries that describe an event
usually isn,t
updated. To find out whether information is old, look for a date on the page (it,s often near the bottom).

What's the site's policy about linking to other sites?

some sites don't link to any other sites, some link to any site that asks or pays for a link, and others link only
to sites that meet certain criteria. You may be abte to find information on the site about its linking policy. (For
example, NCCIH's linking policy:s available on the NCCIH Web Site tnformation and policies page.)

unless the site's linking policy is strict, don't assume that the sites that it links to are reliable. you shoutd
evaluate the linked sites just as you would any other site that you,re visiting forthe time.

How does the site collect and handle personal information? ls the site secure?

Web sites track what pages you're looking at. They may also ask you to ,'subscribe,, or .,become a member.,,
Any credible site collecting this kind of information should tefl you exacfly what it will and won,t do with it.

Many commercial sites serr "aggregate" (co[ected) data about their users to ofl']er companies-information
such as what percentage oftheir users are women over 40. ln some cases, they may collect and reuse
information that's "personally identifiable," such as your Zlp Code, gender, and birth date.

722t2414 Finding and Eva ual nq Onnre Resources NCCIH

. Read any privacy policy or similar language on the site, and don,t sign up for anythjng you don,t fullv
understand. You can find NCClH,s privacy policv on the NCCTH Web site.
I see if the address (uBL) for the site starts with "https://" instead of "httpi//." sites that use HTTps (secure
Hyper Text rransfer Protocor) are encrypted, ress rikeryto be hacked, and more rikery to protect your privacy.

Can you communicale with the owner of the Web siie?

' You should arways be abre to contact the site owner if you run across probrems or have questions
feedback. lf the site hosts onrine discussion forums or message boards, it should explain the terms
of use.
ls it safe to link to Twitter or Facebook th.ough a Web site?
. lf the sjte is linked to social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or youTube, spend
some time reading
what has been posted to see whether you feer comforiabre with the tone before joining in. you
may arso be
able to review past discussions. For example, NCCIH has an archive of Twitter and Facebook
chats. Also, look
for a comments policy on the Web site, such as NCC|H,s social media comments policy.

More information about online health resources is available Irom the following sources:

r Evaluating Health Websites (National Network of Libraries of l\,4edicine)

. Using Trusted Resources (National Cancer Institute)
! How To Evaluate Health lnformation on the lnternet euestions ahd Answers {Office o, Dietary Supplements)
r Evaluating Health lnformation (Medlineptus)
. I\4edlinePlus cuide to Healthy Web Surfing (N.4edtineptus)
r En espaiol:
r MedlinePlus
. Guia de MedlinePlus para una b[squeda saludable en lnternet.
Are You Reading News or Advertising?
The Federar rrade commission (FTc) has warned the pubric about fake onrine news
sites. The site may look rear,
but is actuarry an advertisement. The site may use the rogos of regitimate news organizations
or simirar names
and Web addresses. To get you to sign up for whatever they,re selling, they may
describe an ,,investigation,, into
the effectiveness ofthe product. But eveMhing is fake: there is no reporter,
no news organization, and no
investigation. onry the rinks to a sares site are rear. Fake news sites have promoted questionabre
including acai berry for weight loss, work-at-home opportunities, and debt reduction ptans.

You should suspect that a news site may be fake if it:

r Endorses a product. Real news organizations generally don,t do this.

. Only quotes people who say good things about the product.
' Presents research findings that seem too good to be true. (rf something seems
too good to be true. it
usually is.)
. Contains links to a sales site.

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Ti2z2a1A Finding and Eva ual n9 Onine Resources NCCia

. lncludes only positive reader comments, and you can't add a comment of your own.

Read more information about Iake news sites

r Fake News Sites Promote Acai Supplements (FTC)

r Sitios falsos de agencias de noticias promocionan suplementos de acai (FIC).

How To Protect Yourself From Fake News Sites

lf you suspecl that a news site is fake, look Jor a disclaimer somewhere on the page (oJten in smatl print) thai
indicates that the sile is an advertisement. Also, don't rely on lnlernet news reports when making important
decisions about your health. lf you're considering a health product described in the news, discuss it with your
health care provider.
Read more intormation about health fraud

. Protecting Yourself (FDA)

. El Fraude en la Salud (FDA).

More to Consider
. lf you're thinking about using a dietary supplefent, first get informatjon on it lrom reliable sources. Keep in
mind that dietary supplements may interact with medications or other supplements and may contain
ingredients not listed on the label. Your health care provider can advise you.
. Take charge of your health-talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches
you use. Iogether, you can make shared, well-informed decisions_

For More lnformation

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health
approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The
clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendat,ons, or referrals to practitioners.
Tolf-tree in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226
TTY (for dea, and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615
Website: nccih.nih.qov

A service o, the National Library of lvedicine, PubMed@ contains publication information and (in most cases)
brieJ summaries of articles from scientific and medicaljoumals. For guidance from NCctH on using publ\led, see
How To Find Information About Complementary Health Apprcaches on pubMed.
National Cancer lnstitute

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7l22t2A1A Flndlno and Evaluaiin! Onllne Resolrces NCCIH

The Nationai Cancer lnstitute is the Federal Government's lead agency for cancer research. The National Cancer
lnstitute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine coordinates and enhances the National
Cancer lnstitute's activities in research on complemenlary health approaches.
Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)'
Websile: www.cancer. gov

Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National lnstitutes of Health (NlH)

ODS seeks to slrengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluatlng scienliric
intormation, supponing research, sharing research results, and educating the public. lts resources include
publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific
supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the
PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset
Website: ods.od.nih.qov


To provide resources that help answer health questions, lvledlinePlus (a service of the National Library oJ
Medicine) brings together authorjtative information from the National lnstitutes of Health as well as other
Government agencies and health-related organizations.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA oversees the safety of many products, such as foods, medicines, dietary supplements, medical devices,
and cosmetics. See its Web page on Dietary Supplements.
TolFrree in the U.S.: 1-888-463-6332
Centerlor Food Safety and Applied Nutrition {CFSAN)

Part of the FDA, CFSAN oversees the safety and labeling of supplemenis, foods, and cosmetics. lt provides
inlormation on dietary supplements. Online resources for consumers include Tips for Dietary Supplement lJse6:
Making lnformed Decisions and Evaluating lnformation.
Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-723-3366
Website: wtaar.f da. gov/AboutFDA"/Centersof f ices/Off iceof Foods/CFSAIV
Dietary Supplement Label Database

The Dietary Supplement Label Database-a project of the National lnstitutes of Health-has all the information
found on labels of many brands ol dietary supplements marketed in the tjnited States, Users can compare the
amounl of a nutrient listed on a label with the Government's recommended amounts.
Website: https://dsld.nlm.nih.qov/dsld/

Key References

hltps:/lnc. h.n h gov/heallh/webresoLrces

'I t2212414 Finding and Eva uatng online Resou.ces I NCCIH

Albrecht UV, Von Jan U, Pramann O. Standard reportlng tor medical apps. Studies in Health Technology and
Infomatics . 2O13;19O'.2O1 -203.

Carissoli C, Viltani D, Riva G. Does a meditation protoool supported by a mobile application help people reduce
stress? Suggestions Irom a controlled pragmatic ttial. Cyberpsychology, Behaviot and Social
Netwo rki ng. 2o1 5 ;1 8('l)i46-53.

Office of Dietary Supplements. How To Evaluate Health lnformation on the lntefiet: Questions and Answers.
Ofiice of Dietary Supplements Web site. Accessed at lnformation/How To_Evaluate-Health-lnformation on the_lnternet_Ouestions_andJ
on November 29, 2016.

Plaza l, Demazo MM, Herrera-Mercadal P, et al. Mindfulness-based mobile applications: literature review and
analysis of current features. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 2013:1(2)p24.

Subhi Y, Bube SH, Rolskov Bojsen S, et al. Expert involvement and adherence to medlcal evidence in medical
mobile phone apps: a systematic review. JMIF mHealth and uHealth. 2015;3(3):e79.

All Other References

Boulos MN, Brewer AC, Karimkhani C, et al. Mobile medicaland health apps: state ofthe ad, concerns,
regulatory control and ceriification. Or,/lne Joufial of Public Health lnfomatics.2Ol4;513Ji229.

Buying health products and services online. FederalTrade Commission Web site. Accessed at on Novembet 29, 2O16.

Comprar productos y servicios para la salud en internet. FederalTrade Commission Web site. Accessed at on
November 29, 2016.

Consumer Reports. Beware oI Fake News Online. Consumer Reports Web site.

Find quality resources. Web site. Accessed at

resources on Novembet 29,2016.

Mani M, Kavanagh DJ, Hides L, et al. Review and evaluat,on of mindfulness-based iphone apps. JM\R nHeatth
and u Health. 2O1 5i3(3\te82

Ivarcano Belsario JS, Huckvale K, Greenfield G, et al. Smartphone and tablet solf management apps for
aslhma. Cochnne Database of Systemarc Revlews. 201 3;(1 1 ):CDo1 001 3. Accessed at on Novembet 29, 2016.

Martinez-P6rez B, de la Tone-Diez l, L6pez-Coronado L4. Privacy and security in mobile health apps: a review
and recommendations. Joumal of Medical Systems. 2015;39(1):181.

Wallace LS, Dhingra LK. A systematic review of smadphone applications tor chronic pain available ior
download in the United States. Joumal o/Opioid Management. 2O14;10('1):63-68.

NCCIH Pub No.r D337

Last Updated: January 2018


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7t22t2014 F nding afd Eva ual.A O.lne ResoFces INCCIB


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