As a health professional I often find myself being asked health related questions by family and friends.  I usually share some basic general information regarding their concern or symptom, and refer them to their own physician, which is always best practice. Last year my mother was experiencing severe bouts of localized joint pain, swelling and immobility in several areas of her body, and decided she would diagnose herself because she wasn’t due for her next physician visit for another 2 months.  For those of you with elderly parents, this same reasoning sounds familiar.

As you might imagine she did what many people do and sought out the advice of her immediate network – the Pastor, her cribbage group, friends that stopped by, TV, advertising, etc.  Feeling fairly confident she had her diagnosis, she turned to another favorite resource the Internet and entered the word “gout” which produced a slew of websites for Gout, Gout Info, Diet to Cure your Gout, send us your money gout, etc.

Thankfully she shared this process with me, which offered the perfect opportunity to help her understand the importance of using the Internet as a tool, but using it wisely and safely.  Unfortunately, this experience is similar to how your employees might seek information as well.  If your organizations’ health insurer offers a health information resource such as a Nurse Line, help employees learn to use it effectively for health information. If your health promotion program offers a wellness portal, perhaps it contains a health information library.  When your employees do turn to the Internet for health information, please share that one of the quickest and safest ways to access accurate content is to look for the HONcode logo. 

The Health On the Net Foundation (HON) promotes and guides the deployment of useful and reliable online health information, and its appropriate and efficient use. Created in 1995, HON is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.”[1] For twelve years, HON has focused on ensuring health information on the Internet is reliable and ethical. The HONCode logo typically appears at the bottom of the website’s home page.

As for my mother’s joint pain, let’s just say it wasn’t gout, and she is being properly treated by her physician. But more importantly she learned a valuable lesson about personal health and safety.