From Mommy Blogs to Multi-Level Marketing: Evaluating “Health” Resources

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Notice I put health in quotation marks in the title. There are many great health resources on the web that are clearly valid: sites run by government agencies, public health officials, and hospitals. This blog post isn’t about those. It’s about all of the other “health” webpages that pop up in your Google search. After all, anyone can post anything online for any purpose. Evaluating content on the web for its motive and trustworthiness is tricky, but necessary when it comes to our physical and mental health.

This past year there’s been three different types of concerning health sites that have flooded my web search results. The first are fad weight loss tricks. We can all name a few of these. ~ Drink apple cider vinegar every morning and lose weight now! ~ (Please don’t actually do this without talking to your doctor first!) These are identifiable by their outlandish claims, often reported to be one simple tip only known to a few. If one simple trick really worked wouldn’t we all be doing it?

The second type of questionable health websites common today comes from multi-level marketing businesses such as It Works!, Herbalife, and Youngevity. These companies work search engine magic to ensure only their bias reviews make it to the first page of search results. Locating unbiased, medical opinions of their products is no easy task.

The third type of problematic health site I’ve struggled with this year is the mommy blog. As an expecting mother, it can be wonderful to connect to others who have experienced what I’m going through. The problem is, unlike in real life, I have no information about the author to place their claims in context. For example, when an acquaintance of mine scoffed at my plans to take three months off of work as a problem for my career and co-workers, I could tune her out because I knew she didn’t work until her youngest was five. But reading advise online can be disheartening when you want to be the best parent and see “must-have” products and “must-do” lifestyle changes that don’t fit into your budget or work-life balance. Medically speaking, is my baby really in danger if I don’t invest in an expensive vital monitoring anklet? Or is this mom blogger just trying to sell me something?

To help navigate the flood of dubious health resources out there, ask yourself the following four questions.

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