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Study: Health Information Web Searches While Popular, Often Inaccurate

August 2, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the majority of the U.S. population (59 percent) searched the internet for health information, and many of those were parents searching for information regarding their infant children. Even though 72 percent of adults thought that they could believe most or all of the health information on the internet, the researchers found that Google internet searches for infant sleep safety, for instance, are often inaccurate.

The AAP says of the 1300 website results, 43.5 percent provided accurate information, 28.1 percent provided inaccurate information, and 28.4 percent provided information that was not relevant to infant sleep safety. When the websites that were not relevant were excluded, 60.8 percent of the websites provided accurate information. The researchers found government and organizational websites had the highest percentage of accurate information (80.1 percent and 72.5 percent, respectively), while blogs, retail product reviews, and individuals' websites had the lowest (30.9 percent, 36.2 percent, and 45.5 percent, respectively).

 "It is important for health care providers to realize the extent to which parents may turn to the internet for information about infant sleep safety and then act on that advice, regardless of the reliability of the source,” Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., pediatrician and SIDS researcher at the Washington D.C.-based Children's National Medical Center, said in a statement.

Dr. Moon and her colleagues from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Children's National Medical Center, and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences checked accuracy of the information on infant sleep safety available on the internet, using Google. Thirteen key phrases were created to reflect specific AAP recommendations for infant sleep safety, and the first 100 search engine websites were analyzed for each phrase.  

The authors recommend that healthcare providers should provide an up-to-date list of websites that accurately reflect AAP recommendations on infant sleep safety.

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