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The 'Net: A Tangled Web of Health Information
Date:4/24/2008

Experts offer advice on how to use the Internet to your advantage

THURSDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- The Internet offers a dizzying amount of health information -- whatever ails you, someone is sure to have posted something about it somewhere on the Web.

But all that information can lead to overload -- or worse. You might end up heeding the wrong voice and getting some fairly bad advice.

"There's a lot of quackery on the Web," said Don Powell, president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. "There's a lot of bias on the Web. The Web is just wrought with misinformation and badly dated information."

One good basic piece of advice is to stick to sites ending in ".edu," ".gov" or ".org," Powell said. That means the site is run by a school, a government agency or a nonprofit organization and is, therefore, less likely to push a biased point of view, unlike some ".com" -- or commercial -- sites.

Another good way to judge a site is to see whether it's been accredited, Powell said. He noted two groups that are active in certifying sites as accurate and up-to-date: URAC and Health on the Net (HON).

"We ask people when they look on the Web that they make sure the site is accredited," he said. "It's a good way to establish trustworthiness."

Web sites published by companies or individuals can contain some good advice, but health consumers need to be more discerning when using those sites, said Dr. Jim King, a family practice doctor in Selmer, Tenn., and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

First, see who is paying for the information you are viewing. The ads supporting a site can be a hint to possible bias, King said. "It may be skewed one way or the other, based on their advertisements," he said.

Who owns the site also can be a clue. For example, is a pharmaceutical company presenting the information? "Clearly, there's a bias there t
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