Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
This weekend, while I was doodling around the Internet seeking reviews for a gift I expected to purchase my "googling" led me to a site that reviewed Health and Fitness products. The title of the web site, which included the words, "consumer health" intrigued me. I have relied on Consumer's Report for years and thought this web site might be related.
I choose not to promote the site for reasons that will follow. The banner on the home page described the site as "ultimate guide in helping you make all the right choices. Get the facts and shop smart."
My intuitive mind voice said, "red flag."
Professionals who edit my writing will tell you that despite my penchant for diagramming sentences, my grammar and punctuation often leaves something to be desired. However, the use of the prepositional phrase, "in helping you" rather than the more grammatically correct, "to help you," led me to believe that despite the very cool title of the site, I was not dealing with professionals. It got worse. An article about trans fats, titled Hidden Poison," misspelled margarine (margerin) in the process of explaining that trans fatty acids, "cause you to store fat and burn sugar," and "increase your perception of pain. " Both statements are false. Admittedly, the well intentioned article included some accurate facts including that trans fats originally were believed to be a wiser choice than saturated fats and later discovered to be a fat we should avoid.
There were additional intriguingly titled articles on this web site which featured Weight Watcher's Magazine, a Clinical Nutrition Journal and other reputable periodicals along with some I no longer trust. Some of the articles were truthful including one that explained cholesterol in an easy to understand manner and another on diabetes that was clearly written. However, others combined fact and fiction, were riddled with the inaccuracies, misconceptions and personal interpretations or offered personal opinions. These are a health promotion educator's worst nightmare because they are the source of the many erroneous beliefs people have about health related subjects.
Of course, I could not risk delving deeper into the site-especially after I discovered it was the source of a review of weight loss pills that was promoted as though it was a medical review when, in fact, it was nothing more than an accounting of which companies sold the most weight loss pills in recent months. Most readers would perceive the information to be a recommendation for using pills for weight loss-a position no reliable health educator would support.
My detective work revealed that the site is hosted by a marketing company that is funded by affiliated advertising space that appears on the website. Admittedly many reputable web sites are supported by ad dollars but this one is a marketing company designed to promote the opinions of the people who sell and use their products.
The point of this diatribe is "researcher beware." It continues to be easy to be drawn into a web site that, according to google sources, ranks URLS based on the number of times it gets a hit. In short, the words "consumer," "research," "health" could bring up reputable and unreliable resources.
I wish I had an answer to the dilemma. I know I can trust Medline, the National Library of Medicine's search service that provides access to more than 11 million citations. I trust www.webmd.com, www.intelihealth.com, and www.healthcentral.com. The best web site to get reviews about hundreds of others is www.tufts.edu. Try www.swh.net for information on health conferences for women nationwide and www.breastcancer.org and www.nof.org for updates on breast cancer and osteoporosis. I'd be here all night if I listed every site I can trust or those I don't trust. If you want to know what I think of a site, ask. I am not lacking for an opinion.
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