Chandigarh : With the aim of studying both reliability and accuracy regarding the available health information on websites in order to make informed decisions by community, the School of Public Health Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) conducted a study titled ‘Evaluation of Quality and Readability of Health Information Websites Identified through India’s Major Search Engines’.
The study was done by Dr Sonu Goel, Associate Professor of Health Management, School of Public Health, PGI, assessed the quality and readability of health information
websites on World Wide Web in India, showed, most of the health information available at various websites had average quality, especially in terms of
usability and reliability.
The information was written at high readability levels.
The cross-sectional study was carried used the keywords “Health” and “Information” were used on search engines ‘Google’ and ‘Yahoo.’ The study included top 25 weblinks per engine were analyzed for their quality and readability. The criteria for inclusion of health information sites were that it should be written in English and offer general health information about various diseases.
The research also highlighted that most contents on health information websites are not authored by medical professionals and not policed by any governing body or adhered to any ethical regulations.
Therefore, there is a risk that health information available may be misleading or dangerous. Such information of dubious quality can do more harm than good.
The repetitions, blogs, discussion groups, and specific journal article links were excluded. Out of 50 websites for health information (25 from each of the search engines), after exclusion, 32 websites were evaluated.
The presence of Health on the Net Code of Conduct (HONcode) certification to address their reliability and usefulness of the websites was also included.
The study results also found that only half of the websites were HONcode certified.
Literature has shown that HONcode certification was present in 4 to 30 percent of the websites.
However, the study found no significant difference in the quality of scores of websites irrespective of HONcode certification. Similar results were also seen in other studies.
This may be because of the fact that some of the websites may be suitable for certification but have not sought HONcode certification due to lack of awareness regarding this certification, as this requires a voluntary application by the website managers.
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