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Health News on the Web: Where Do You Get Yours?

My day started the way every weekday starts: Cup of coffee in hand, I sat down in front of my computer (having eaten a nutritious breakfast, natch!) and began checking the morning's health news. I started, of course, with The Washington Post, reading anything reported there, by Post staffers or wire services, that was health related.

Then I moved to The New York Times to see what Tara Parker-Pope had to say in her "Well" column and blog. Then a peek at the The Wall Street Journal's health blog (which focuses mostly on health-business news), and then to Julie Deardorff's "Julie's Health Club" blog in the Chicago Tribune (which has a strong alternative/complementary health bent). Finally, I Googled "Health News" and "Nutrition News" and scanned the headlines those searches called up.

The routine gives me a good sense of the day's health-news and often gets me thinking about what I want to blog about for tomorrow. Of course, I get news from many sources other than the Internet, but my morning scan makes me feel grounded in what's going on out there.

But lately it strikes me that this is a journalist's routine, and I wonder what the rest of you are reading with your morning coffee. Where do you turn for health news? Which sources do you find most reliable? Informative? Entertaining? Do you gravitate toward online newspapers' health reporting and blogs? Or do you more often seek news from independent bloggers, disease-specific Web sites or general health sites such as WebMD or government sources such as the CDC?

Please share your suggestions with me and your fellow readers. I'd appreciate your including URLs for any sites you recommend so we can all check them out.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 27, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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Comments

In addition to the wash post, I love the LATIMES.COM health section. I also get daily emails from everydayhealth.com that have lots of new studies but, are mostly pretty high level in terms of details.

Posted by: sleye8478 | February 27, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

My homepage is HealthDay - http://healthday.com/

It gives me a quick update on a lot of latest research findings; from there I go to the WaPo and the NYT. If there is something new that particularly interests me, I usually Google it to find more details.

Posted by: DESS1 | February 27, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Reading about health news makes me sick so I usually just discuss health issues at the local Dunkin Donuts over a cup o' joe and a few Boston Creams with the rest of the retirees.

But on a serious note, how can anyone put much faith in what they read or see on TV regarding health news when most of the information comes from the for profit health care, or denial, industry.

Butter's bad, margarine good. No wait, margarine bad, butter good.

Don't use salt, oops, you die without it.

You get Vitamin D from the sun, along with skin cancer.

Eat you veggies. And get e-coli or salmonella, or both.

Hey Doris, another Boston Cream please.

Posted by: rcubedkc | February 27, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

In addition to those you mentioned in the article I also receive a morning email from daily.headlines@medpagetoday which summarizes new studies.

Posted by: bbbradford | February 27, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

That's not really a journalist's routine. Yours is a high-end consumer's routine. You are not looking at the primary data. Unfortunately, most of the other health writers you mention also do not read the actual medical literature to provide us with a true journalist's routine. Instead, it is mostly rehashed data from different medical societies news releases. Unfortunately, they often have an agenda.

Posted by: longjohns | February 27, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Hi, Longjohns: As I noted in the blog, scanning the headlines is of course not the only way I get my information; it's just a good way to get a sense of what folks are talking about out there. And of course I read the actual medical literature I report on! Thanks for commenting!

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | February 27, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It depends.
I read health news all over the place. I take what makes sense and leave the rest.

However, with something serious, say a cancer diagnosis, I head for the library.

Web/newspaper news is distilled to fit onto a screen and for readers of varying backgrounds. If I have something serious I want the continunity and complexity that a book provides.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 27, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

if you have a chronic disease, you don't have to do anything to get health news about that condition -- people will email you anything that appears in mainstream media. it's like a google alert that you didn't ask for and may not particularly want.

not to sound bitter, i know it's all well-meaning.

other than my own personal unsolicited "google alert" team sending me articles about multiple sclerosis, i just scan the WaPo health section once in a while. i really don't bother to keep on health news.

Posted by: pinkstate | February 27, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I like to read Dr. Len's Cancer Blog at www.cancer.org/drlen once a week to get perspective on cancer news.

Posted by: claireg85 | February 27, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I like the Mayo Clinic's web site for all kinds of health info, including its "find it fast" medical encyclopedia, and always check the NY Times on Tuesday to see what Jane Brody's column covers. Other than that, I have a laugh every morning when the Dilbert cartoon of the day shows up in my email at work.

Posted by: Domesticrat | February 27, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the sources you mentioned, I like White Coat Notes from Elizabeth Cooney at the Boston Globe. I also get the Medscape Public Health & Prevention RSS feed, which includes good summaries of recent research into heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.

The Scientists and Engineers for America Action Fund posts a daily list of links to science-related stories, many of which have to do with health.

And I hope it's okay for me to include a plug for my own public health blog, The Pump Handle: ttp://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/

Posted by: Liz_B | February 27, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't consider Newsmedia as crediblbe commentaters on health matters. They blindly regurgitate the self-serving "news" which is bought and paid for by the Health Industry. The recent flack on vitamins is a great example but others such as the University of Wisconsin or the ACS abound. For a dose of real news I turn every morning to NaturalNews.com, LEF.org or Mercola.com. My wife and I have chucked drugs and improved our health because of their advice.

Posted by: FlyingDutchman1405 | February 28, 2009 4:41 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Huget, I review the sources you mention, but only when they are flagged to me by a headline on the newspaper home page. I read no health column on a regular basis (though I do like your column and read it on occasion).

For health information -- not news so much -- I like WebMD.com. They publish a paper (!) magazine for doctor's offices, not consumers. I think it is quite good. I tried to subscribe once and was told, nope, it is just for doctors but they will keep my name on a list in case it is made available to consumers in the future.

For credibility, I give Consumer Reports magazine great weight, though they are a bit liberal for my tastes. They have a stand-along health newsletter that I do not subscribe to.

Junk science sites such as junkscience.com and debunkers.org are good for debunking some health claims.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | February 28, 2009 5:10 AM | Report abuse

I like personal experiences, like RateMds.com
or http://adventuresincardiology.com/

Posted by: danwalter1122 | February 28, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

The last place anyone should go for help or questions about your health is
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
people like Story Landis William Theodore and John Heiss Ingela Danielsson are just LIARS who don't tell patients the truth.

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!

These people ARE NOT doctors...

Remember the bottom 5 percent of students graduating from medical schools get jobs,
mostly at The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

GO TO REAL DOCTORS....These boys and girls are no doctors they can't even tell the truth.

STAY AWAY FORM THE NINDS IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!!!

Posted by: 1-20-09 | February 28, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I regularly read the WP and NYT health articles. When I want to look things up, I too go to the Mayoclinic.com site. The writing there seems more optimistic and is layered so you can click and get as much detail as you'd like. Carol

Posted by: cnordengren | February 28, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The problem with getting health news from online news organizations is that the level of ignorance in popular media coverage of health news is so bad that the news is very lame. Interesting studies or results aren't reported and what does break through is really naive stuff to anyone who is health conscious and thinks above the 8th grade level ("Study says eat more greens!").

There is a culture in the U.S. of people who are still not aware that diet and exercise is more relevant to health than doctors' prescriptions. These people are in the majority, unfortunately, and account for the ballooning obesity, type II diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other lifestyle disease statistics. Popular media writes to those peoples' level of comprehension, when it comes to health news. That is a lot like directing all of the political machine in campaign seasons to the 5 percept of voters who will always be "undecided" even if one candidate was a brain-damaged demon and the other is the world's top statesman.

The best health news comes from real health organizations like clinics and medical school websites.

But apart from reading journal papers and medical school newsletters, the best and most relevant news information reads tend to come from alternative health and natural healing websites, something I think that traditional pop media has yet to pick up on. Even though the "alternative" and "natural" healing writers are viewed by traditionalists as "nonscientific", the level of discourse in such forums is quite sophisticated medically compared to regular medical news writers. I.e. instead of being at the 8th grade level, alternative and natural health news tends to at least be written for people who have had high school or even college science.

Given my above opinions, I recommend

Harvard Health & Medical Information website
Stanford Hospital & Clinics in the News website
Yale Medical Center News & Information

Plus there are specific clinics & research centers' web pages for specific interests, like

Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University's News page

For alternative and natural healer news, there are some great web info/news sites, like

care2.com's Health & Green Living section
mercola.com

Sites like WebMD simply aggregate regular news headlines. For pop news headlines, it's much simpler to go to

Google news's Health Section
MSNBC.msn.com's Health Section


Posted by: AsperGirl | February 28, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments and great suggestions. Keep 'em coming!

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | February 28, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

For years and years I have regularly surfed the medical internet, e.g. www.medscape.com. That, as well as Google and a host of other med sites such as Webmd keep me well informed. In fact, I often forward to physician friends of mine (who do not have the time to do such surfing)news items specific to their specialty. For the last 18 years I have been a volunteer at NIH in the substance
abuse field, sharing my experience, strength and hope from my 45+ years in AA
w/o relapse and my 39+ years in Al-Anon, the family organization. (I am a retired
federal law enforcement officer who lives immediately next to NIH in Bethesda. I am in the penultimate stage of multiple sclerosis.)

Posted by: apandersongmailcom | March 1, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Health journalists and consumers should look regularly at http://www.healthnewsreview.org/, which critically evaluates *coverage* of health news topics on a number of criteria, including objectivity, basis in science, whether harms and benefits are presented, costs, whether a story is based mainly on a news release, whether a touted treatment is actually approved and available, etc.

Posted by: dovekie1 | March 1, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I sometimes go to the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report. Sometimes the National Institutte of Health. Cancer facts dot org used to give good information on questions to ask your doctors if you have cancer and pictures on the stages of cancer.
I find very little on health policy for the elderly 65 & up, especially on Medicaid eligibility being 65% of the Federal Poverty level when families is 400% of the FPL.
http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_hpolicy.cfm#56575
Good luck.

Posted by: teddi_ohio | March 1, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

WebMD is OK, but only just--it's very basic. Once you've gone as far as you can go with it, give these a try:

1) The source of first resort for me is always MedlinePlus:

www.medlineplus.gov

It is the first place I recommend everybody check. It not only has a very user-friendly online medical encyclopedia, but has drug information that (for consumers, at least) is much easier to use and accessible than the PDR. It is a great aggregator of information from many medical providers as well. Additionally, I always visit www.medlineplus.gov before AND after visiting my physician, so I have at least some idea of what might be wrong with me before I go, and a better idea of what I've been diagnosed with afterwards.

2) For reviewing treatments and more in-depth information, another great source is the NIH/NLM's PubMed at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed

Select free full-text articles, choose search terms and any other limits, and you will gain access to all kinds of useful medical reports, many from medical journals. You can create an account and save articles to it, or email them to yourself. It's free, too.

3) Lastly, my favorite discussion forum is MedHelp:

http://www.medhelp.org/

At one time I was having no success with a treatment the doctor had prescribed. I found a forum on MedHelp for people who had the same condition. Some had used a different treatment. I researched the treatment on MedlinePlus (no luck) and PubMed (lots of articles). I printed the articles I found, brought them to my physician, and we decided to try the new treatment. It worked!

BTW, for those in the metro area, you can actually go and visit the NLM (red line, stop at Medical Center). You can get a free user card, which allows you to use all their databases (inside the library, that is) as well as their print resources.

Since I'm one myself, I can't recommend enough that you ask your friendly reference librarian at your local library for further help--we're always glad to assist people in finding information.

Posted by: kroshka | March 1, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I also scan weekly headlines from Medical News Today (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com).

It's mostly a press release feed, so "buyer beware" - some of the "news" is nothing more than blatant marketing of dubious products.

But it's also a good source for the latest research headlines with links to the original source.

Posted by: LeslieNolenTheRadialGroup | March 6, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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