09 July 2013

Finding Diabetes Info on the Internet – Part 1

Part 1 of 2 parts

When I came across this blog in my subscription to kevinmd.com, I thought great, something I can relate to and something that will expand and be good for another blog on the topic of diabetes education. However, after reading carefully, I will need to make at least one caveat to his analysis. His blog is about diseases and as such, he is correct across the broad spectrum of diseases in general, but this should not be about the diseases only. After correspondence with Edward Leigh, I would add that I am not only interested in the disease, in my case diabetes, but the nutrition in treating the disease, which should be an integral part of any treatment therapy or options for any disease.

The author, Edward Leigh, MA, is right to suggest paying attention to the website's “ending designation or domain name.” However, your homework is not done just because a website is of certain types. There can still be bad sites within these domain names and often you need to be careful. With that, I will list five of the most common ending domain names without comment. The list includes .gov, .edu, .org, .com, and .net. Yes, there are others, but very seldom will you find medical or nutritional information on them.

In general, each has its strengths and weaknesses; the order is ranking them from most reliable to least reliable. You may get tripped up by the weaknesses if you do not pay attention to what you are reading. An example: The USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Several government agencies are involved in the above image; however, the author of the Dietary Guidelines is not mentioned. This is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Therefore, when reading under the USDA website, please be aware that not everything is done in the best interest of its citizens. USDA's sole purpose is to promote US agriculture and some of the foods are not always the most beneficial for us. It took the CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics to combine and show us the error of believing everything published by the USDA. I must thank the Healthy Nation Coalition website for pointing this out.

Even other government agencies make mistakes as well and they print retractions and issue corrections, but not the USDA. So in general this can be a fatal flaw in believing that websites ending in .gov are to be relied upon. More than any other domain name, these websites are normally the most reliable.

The .edu websites must be an educational institution to receive and use this domain name. Generally, patients can obtain excellent information from these websites, but again care must be taken and sometimes you will need to explore complicated sites to find good information, as they will openly and even not so openly be promoting medical services that many patients may not be looking for or needing. This may be because they have aligned themselves with a hospital system or have a medical education department wanting to expand.

Associations and non-profit organizations normally use this domain name - .org. While the majority of groups using this designation are reputable, any individual can get this domain name by filing as a non-profit, and this can create problems when they are unscrupulous people.

The next two, .com, and .net are website designations to be very cautious about. Yes, my site has this designation - .com. .com is generally for commercial use, but many medical websites use this domain name. There are many reputable websites with these endings, but I urge caution as there are many snake oil sales people using these domain names. Then there are also many outright fraudulent sites as well. This requires you to be extra vigilant and read with caution or a jaundiced eye.

Some medical information can be found on .net domains, but generally this is used when the name in .com in unavailable and for some other purposes like networks and internet service provider usage.

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