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Good Enough Health Information??? October 31, 2006

Posted by sharynheili in Uncategorized.

Librarians improve the quality of the question.  But what if we aren’t asked?  Are we paying attention to the erosion of information quality in the minds of the general population and doing something about it?    

According to a new study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project yesterday, 75% of health searchers on the Internet never check the source or date of the information that they are finding on the Internet.  This percentage has actually decreased since their last report in 2001.  80% or about 113 million American adults search for health information online—that’s 8 in 10 internet users. 

74% reported that they felt reassured that they could make appropriate health decisions, and 56% said that they felt confident to raise concerns with their doctor after their last search.  Most reported that they were pleased with what they found online.   One quarter of the health searchers felt overwhelmed by the amount of information (25%), confused by what they found (18%), frustrated by either a lack of information or an inabililty to find information (22%) , and frightened by the graphic nature of what they found online. (10%).   Only 3% of the searchers reported that they or someone they knew had been seriously harmed by following the advice of what they found online. 

As a librarian, these results are extremely scary. In our public computer classes we talk about evaluating websites, why health databases are better, where to look for quality information, identifying health information sites that can be trusted. But I know that I am only reaching a fraction of the people that are searching for health information online in my community. I need to do more—we need to do more.  

This sounds like a job for the “new” librarian, the Information Hero, the Guru of the Information Age.  Our customers need us.  Where are we?  This is one way that we and the library can be an important part of their lives.  Let’s not miss the boat. 

See the complete Pew Internet and American Life Project report, “Online Health Search 2006” here.




1. Phyllis - November 4, 2006

You’re right that this is an area where we libraries/librarians need to go more to where the users are. The OCLC Perceptions report (pt. 1.2) found that only about 1% of users start with the library web page for an information search. Can we make our pages more relevant, more user friendly, more information rich so they will start with us? How do we integrate ourselves into the lives of internet searchers who rank search engines higher than librarians in determining a satisfactory information search. (OCLC Perceptions pt. 2.6)?

We have a challenge ahead of us. We need the Information Heroes, the Gurus of the Information Age.

Thanks for challenging us to meet our customers’ needs.

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