Medical Library Association Encyclopedic Guide to Searching and Finding Health Information on the Web
edited by P. F. Anderson and Nancy J. Allee
The number of Internet users has reached an all-time high -- and grows larger every year. Both the number of searchers seeking health care information and the amount of information on the Web constantly increase. Consumers search for different types of health information in different ways. Studies show that women are more likely to search for information about their children's health and are more likely to worry about the reliability of information. Men are more likely to use the health information from the Web to ask follow-up questions of their physicians, to bookmark Web sites, and to search for sensitive health information. Teenagers search the Web for health information on topics such as weight issues, mental health, drugs and alcohol, and violence. Librarians and other professionals who assist and direct searchers of health information on the Web are often asked to tackle the sometimes painful, often personal, and always very important questions of their clients. Just as all patrons want to find the best information available on the Web as quickly as possible, all librarians want to find the best answers for their clients.
Before beginning a search, librarians and other professional researchers helping consumers have often had to decide how to search for health information on the Web. They could choose the undemanding searching of commercial sites, usually providing sufficient overviews and adequate results to general questions, but leaving the nagging sense that valuable information was overlooked. They might also choose the skilled, but more daunting, prospect of an individually designed search for specific information. The second search promises a superior exploration -- but may seem fraught with risk. The Medical Library Association Encyclopedic Guide to Searching and Finding Health Information on the Web has been designed to help all individual consumers searching for personal information get the best possible answers available. It has also been created to help librarians -- and all health information researchers on the Web -- do an efficient, comprehensive job of an increasingly overwhelming task.
Next "Search Strategies" progresses into a critical discussion of strategies and strategic searching that includes general tips, question types, and putting the pieces together. In particular:
This portion of the Guide contains general sources, tools, statistics, and standards. The "frequently asked questions" portion of this section gives ideas on how to find information on general health concerns -- drug information, laboratory results, medical procedures, terminology, and more. The final section of volume 1, "The Quick Reference Guide," includes seven handy and useful guides to finding health information on the Web. Three of them are likely to be used most frequently:
Volume 3, Health and Wellness/Life Stages and Reproduction, shows how to use the strategic approach in a comprehensive series of real-life health situations. "Health and Wellness" includes more than 160 specific entries grouped under 11 general areas. The major groupings include wellness and lifestyle; safety; first aid; traffic accidents; multicultural health; alternative/complementary health sources; issues faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community; living with a chronic illness, living with a disability; pain and pain management; and hospice and end-of-life care. The second half of volume 2, "Life Stages and Reproduction," covers 114 specific entries grouped under 11 general areas. "Life Stages" examines newborns, children, adolescents, men, women, and seniors. "Reproduction" topics include birth defects, genetic diseases, pregnancy problems, prostate disorders, and sexual health issues.
Volume 3 also has the cumulative index for the entire MLA Encyclopedic Guide. The index will be particularly helpful when you are looking for a specific term and will direct you to the best places to begin your search. The page you are directed to will feature cross-references to more ideas or terms in other sections of the Guide. You will see that there are extensive "see references" to other pertinent material at the beginning of each separate entry.
Note: The Medical Library Encyclopedic Association Guide to Searching and Finding Health Information on the Web also features a companion Web site. An optional CD-ROM is also available.
The search strategies include the following subdivisions:
More than 600 "Procedures and Special Topics" sections feature recommended search terms and important sites. The recommended terms comprise a wide, authoritative vocabulary of medical terms and expressions producing comprehensive search results. "Important sites" are the dependable, respected sites that a researcher could consult directly or employ as part of an individualized search strategy.
The following list terms or important, helpful sites:
This last category incorporated reported questions from healthfinder, HealthWeb, MedlinePlus, NetWellness, NOAH, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Using this methodology virtually ensured that all of the topics represented are common health issues and concerns.
Although we certainly tried to offer a broad range of subjects, The MLA Encyclopedic Guide could not be a comprehensive encyclopedia of every piece of health information on the Web. The first volume is a guide to searching, and the actual strategies and searches in the latter two volumes can be adapted to any health question. Also, although the diseases and special topics are common health issues and concerns, there is a section of searching rare diseases with samples that can be used to find information on any type of condition that is less common in the population as a whole.
The Medical Library Association Encyclopedic Guide to Searching and Finding Health Information on the Web is dedicated to the idea that there is a wealth of helpful and life-saving health information available on the Internet -- if you know the best way to find it. Too often seekers of this information -- whether individual researchers or trained librarians -- have only had the choice of consulting prepackaged information or searching without pointers from trained professionals in the field. Our guide has attempted to provide a comprehensive and cutting-edge assortment of information along with the best overall strategies to search. It is designed to bring together the best of health care information and the best of the Internet and -- importantly -- the best research methods. Health concerns demand nothing less.
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Last Update: Thursday, 01-Apr-2004 15:13:12 EST