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Diabetes Social Networking Web Sites Vary in Quality
Date:2/18/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The quality of social networking sites for people with diabetes varies greatly, researchers say, with some providing useful medical information and emotional support, while others may simply be thinly veiled advertising sites.

Only half of the sites researchers from Children's Hospital Boston reviewed contained content that was in line with current diabetes science and clinical practice, the study found.

"This study was an attempt to rigorously review online social networking communities focused on diabetes, not Web sites and not bulletin board communities," said lead author Elissa Weitzman, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Children's Hospital Informatics Program in Boston.

"People are in these communities to address an overwhelming need for information and social communication. And, we found that a couple of sites consistently did better than others," she added.

Weitzman declined to name those sites, explaining the study was designed to evaluate the social networks overall, not to provide specific reviews. Also, some of the networks reviewed may not be active anymore.

The researchers reviewed the top 10 diabetes social networks, according to a Google search. They evaluated each one for the accuracy of its diabetes science; safety practices (Were sites monitored by moderators? Were conflicts of interest apparent? How was misinformation handled?); accessibility of privacy policies, and the ability to change privacy settings. They also looked at how advertising was identified, how member data was shared and what control members had over their data.

Half the sites provided good medical information. Only three sites met most of the researchers' criteria with regard to safety, and only three sites posted information about network moderators. Eight networks had accessible privacy policies, but most wer
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