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Finding Credible Information
Making health care patient-centered starts with giving consumers accurate information that they can use to make informed choices.
The fastest growing resource of information in our society today is the internet. There is a seemingly endless supply of information about health and just about anything else you can imagine on the internet along with opportunities to interact with people all over the world. Imagine being diagnosed with a rare health condition, and being able to connect with other people who share your diagnosis even though they live hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.
In recent years the growth in technology and new media has created a communications revolution that puts instant and equal access to previously unavailable or difficult-to-find information at your fingertips. Unfortunately the quality of that information can be described as the good, the bad and the ugly. How do you tell the difference? That's an important question when you consider that people rely on this information to make important decisions about their health and healthcare.
The internet has virtually no controls over who is posting information or whether the information is correct, or even safe.
We have a tough job. Having a critical eye is our responsibility. We must decide which information is good based on common sense, sound judgment and some general guidelines. Approach the information with skepticism and caution and you'll be able to navigate to the highest quality information.
The National Library of Medicine has put together a tutorial to help you Evaluate Internet Health Information.
What to look for. . .
Many reliable websites have a seal of certification from a trusted accrediting organization like URAC and the Health on the Net Foundation . This “seal of approval” tells users the information on a particular site is reliable. To earn a seal, the web site has to meet certain conditions. Health and medical site owners seek this accreditation on their own. There are plenty of sites without these seals that contain good health information.
Use a specialized search engine.
There are specialized search engines that look only at reputable sites that have been vetted by health professionals. Dirline, run by the National Library of Medicine, is one such engine, as are medlineplus.gov and imedix.com. Healthfinder.gov searches for information on government health Web sites.
Check the source.
Who is responsible for the content? At the end of the web site's URL (the web address, starting with http://), you will usually see .com, .edu, .gov, or .org if the web site originates in the United States . Good sources of health information include:
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you are looking for health information on the Web:
Most important of all: No health information on the Web should take the place of information provided by your physician or healthcare provider. Health information on the Internet is meant to supplement the information your physician gives you, not replace it. Ask your doctor what he or she knows about the topic or finding and what sources they would regard as reliable.
Evaluating Internet Health Information - Watch a tutorial from the National Library of Medicine that teaches you how to evaluate health information.
MedlinePlus Guide to Healthy Web Surfing
Finding Credible, Reliable Objective Health Information on the Internet - Guidelines and best practices for internet health and medical research (from About.com by Trisha Torrey)
Finding Resources & Support
People can improve their care by learning more about their doctors and their own conditions—asking questions, sharing their medical history, making sure they understand their doctor's recommendations, and taking the necessary steps to feel better sooner.
Knowing when you need help and how to find help is critical when it comes to managing your health. It can be a challenge. Without a detailed map, where do you start?
Your doctor's office is a great place to begin. Talk with your doctor and ask them for suggestions on finding additional resources or information. Don't forget about other members of your healthcare team—nurses, dieticians, insurance specialists—who can help you to.
Oftentimes, one of the first community resources your doctor will suggest are voluntary health organizations, places like the American Diabetes Association or the American Cancer Society. There's a whole branch of these organizations that can provide personalized, one-on-one support for people who have been diagnosed with a particular health condition. Finding what you need may be a simple as looking in the phone book, making some calls or going online. Medline Plus has put together a list of these organizations you can access grouped by health topic or listed in alphabetical order.
The telephone book can lead you to some of those organizations too. Look for “information and referral” in your county or city government listings. Other agencies listed in the phone book like the United Way , the local chapter of AARP and your local senior service agency can also be helpful with referrals.
Hospitals and health care organizations may also offer some services. Call you local hospital, health insurance plan or clinic and ask for the social services department.
Another community resource is the public library. Be sure to enlist the help of the reference librarian to make sure you don't overlook anything. There are also other specialized health libraries. They are oftentimes offered through non-profit organizations or hospitals. Sometimes they will charge a small fee. Use this link from Medline Plus to find a medical library in your area.
You may also want to reach out to support groups, message boards and forums online. Connecting with other patients and sharing with others can be very empowering.
Next Steps After Your Diagnosis: Finding Information and Support - from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Find Services & Information - from Medline Plus
Interactive Health Tutorials - tutorials are interactive health education resources from the Patient Education Institute. Using animated graphics each tutorial explains a procedure or condition in easy-to-read language. You can also listen to the tutorial. (From Medline Plus)
Patient Friendly References for Health and Medical Research - Master list of types of resources and links to get you there too. (from About.com by Trisha Torrey)
Learn Problem Solving Steps
Like most things, self-management is rarely a smooth process. Chances are you will run into a few roadblocks along the way. When it seems like you're getting a little worse or hit a plateau, keep in mind that ups and downs are unavoidable. If your plan doesn't work, don't give up! As we saw in “Ann's Story” there are specific steps that can help you tackle the barriers that get in your way.
Kate Lorig at Stanford University has developed a very successful program called the Chronic Disease Self Management Program . The following steps are adapted from this program:
Identify the problem. This is the first and most important step, but it is usually also the most difficult step, it may take some work to identify the root of the problem.
List ideas to solve the problem. Once you have your list it may be helpful to consult with your “self-management support team”—friends, family, your doctor or community resources.
Select one method to try. New activities can be difficult, so make sure you give your selection a fair chance before deciding that it doesn't work.
Assess the results. If you've solved the problem great! If not it's time to substitute another idea from the list.
Reach out for additional resources. If you still don't have the solution it's time to reach out once again to your “self-management support team” for more ideas.
Accept that the problem may not be solvable at this moment. Just because that problem isn't immediately solvable, doesn't mean it won't be solvable later. Don't give up.
Don't dwell on what you can't do. Start working on another goal you'd like to accomplish.
Goals & Action Planning
Getting peace of mind about health care begins largely with finding the right doctor—one who values relationships based on openness and trust and provides high-quality care. Regardless of what kind of relationship they have with their doctor, there is a lot people can do to manage their own health, like watching what they eat, getting exercise, and limiting stress.
Once you've decided to take an active role in your health, one of the first steps is to set a goal for yourself. This is something you and your doctor or other members of your healthcare team should do together. It's part of your treatment plan—allowing you to extend your care beyond the exam room walls and into your everyday life.
Pick a problem. Talk to your doctor and take an honest look at the unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle. It's your turn to zero in on a particular behavior that you'd like to change to help prevent future illnesses, to have better control of conditions you already have and to prevent complications. For example, you might decide that you want to make healthier food choices, increase your physical activity or take your medications as your doctor has prescribed. Write down your goal and date it. Share it with your doctor and other people you trust and ask for their help.
Look for ways to accomplish your goal. There are many ways to reach any specific goal. If your goal is to lose weight you could start an exercise program, decide not to eat between meals or decide to cut out cola of other sweetened beverages from your diet. Sometimes what keeps us from reaching our goal is the failure to see alternatives, so you'll want to list all the options. Share your goal with family, friends and your healthcare team and ask them to help you add to your list.
Turning your Goals into Action Plans. When you think about reaching that goal it can be overwhelming. Generally, goals are too big to work on all at once. If your thinking about losing a significant amount of weight, say 50 pounds, it's not something you can achieve in one week, or even one month. You'll need to break down those goals into smaller achievable steps—this is action planning.
To be successful action plans need to:
Plan ahead. Try to think of things that could go wrong and plan how you'll deal with them. For example, if it rains and you can't walk in the park as planned, where will you go to walk? Is there an indoor track nearby, or could you go to the mall? If you plan how to handle problems in advance, they won't prevent you from following through with your action plan.
Check your confidence level. Ask yourself, “How confident am I that I'll be able to meet this goal?” Calculate your confidence level on a scale o 1-10 with 1 being not sure at all and 10 being totally sure. If the answer is below 7, you may need look at your action plan and either plan or foreseeable problems or change your plan so you are more confident of success.
Keep track of results. Once you are confident of your action plan write it down and post it where you will see it every day. It's a good idea to keep track of how you are doing each day. Check off accomplishments and list any problems you encounter. Ask family and friends to check in with you to see how you are doing—they can be good motivators. At the end of the week, see if you've accomplished your action plan and if you're made progress toward your goal. If you are struggling with your plan it's time to problem solve.
One of the most important things to remember is that you can change your behavior. Even though chronic conditions can make you feel helpless at times, if you work with your doctor to set goals and you take responsibility for following through with them, you can make changes that will lead to better health and decrease the advancement of disease.
Ready to start . . . Make a Plan for Your Health!
My Health Counts! Action Plan
My Health Counts! Living Well with Diabetes Guide
CDC Healthy Living
familydoctor.org - Healthy Living
What are the top five things you can do to stay healthy? Eat healthy, get active, get screened, quit smoking and watch your weight.
These health behaviors, like the ones you learned in your sixth grade health class, are the kinds of things that prevent a lot of chronic conditions from occurring. And when they do occur, it's these same health behaviors that can help minimize the level of severity and allow you to be as healthy as possible living with that chronic condition.
The good news is when it comes to wellness and prevention; we have a lot of control! The bad news is unhealthy behaviors become habits; and changing those habits can be hard.
For some people the concept of wellness is the total absence of disease and that you don't have to take medications. But one of the ways that one might think about wellness is that you are the healthiest that you can be given the health conditions that you're living with.
Often the words “health” and “medicine” are used interchangeably. But the distinction is important. “Health” is the state of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing while “medicine” is the process that can help take us from being sick to being well.
You have an important role to play when it comes to both health and medicine. Your daily choices and behaviors allow you to maintain your health. But when you do get sick, it's your partnership with your doctor and your healthcare team that helps ensure your medical care is successful.
Quality health care happens when people take an active role in their own care, becoming partners with their doctor to create a more effective, trusting relationship that helps them stay healthy or determine the right care when they need it.
Regardless of what type of relationship you have with your doctor, there is a lot you can do on your own to manage your health like watching what you eat, getting exercise and limiting stress.
Learn more in the Quick Guide to Healthy Living from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
My Health Counts! Daily Food Diary
My Health Counts! Exercise Log
Adult BMI Calculator - from the Centers or Disease control & Prevention
Child & Teen BMI Calculator - from the Centers or Disease control & Prevention
My Fats Translator - Fat Calculator - from the American Heart Association
Build Your Question List - from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
What Vaccines Do You Need? - from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mental Health Screening Center - from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
myhealthfinder - Tools to get personalized health recommendations
Stay Connected - Apps and online communities for healthy living from healthfinder.gov
Español - Healthfinder.gov en español le ofrece la información más actualizada para que usted y sus seres queridos se mantengan saludables.
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