Health and Wellness Information: What Can You Believe?

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • In America, we live in an era of excess; we are prosperous in so many ways. We have ready access to food, drinking water, natural resources for energy, and health care for the masses. And no shortage of information…health information included.


    When I was fresh out of residency, the "Google-itis" phenomenon was just beginning. This is the Haines-named syndrome of going on the Internet highway and searching for specific information to relieve health anxiety about any given health issue, question, or concern - and getting more anxious as a result. This can and often does lead to even more information searching and then even more anxiety…and so on and so on, the toxic cycle goes.

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    This syndrome is just as prevalent today - maybe even more so due to the exponentially exploding boom of health and wellness websites (that may or may not be legitimate). Thanks to the Internet, almost anyone can be an "expert" in the field of almost anything. But just because it's on the Internet, is it true?


    We also live in an era of demand for certainty - we demand RESULTS. But even mainstream medicine itself is ill-equipped to give out ironclad guarantees. Consider that a recent Mayo Clinic Proceedings study shows about 40% of a subset of scientific papers published in the hallowed pages of the New England Journal of Medicine in the last decade led to reversal of established medical practice.


    So what's a savvy health information consumer to do?


    My take:

    1. Seek out credible sources of information.

    In medical media, we call these "primary sources" - trusted medical journals (like the Journal of the American Medical Association or the New England Journal of Medicine), medical organizations/societies and peer-determined medical experts (examples include the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Mayo Clinic) and government entities (such as the National Institutes of Health).

    1. Go for the "old standard" over the new and trendy.

    More established health practices (as in many years or decades) are often -but not always- a better way to go than newer, less established (and probably more expensive) ones. In one word: Fen-phen. (Or is that two words?)

    1. Hope for a miracle when you need it - but try to need miracles less.

    American health care is amazing - it is capable of a lot: relief of suffering, care of the ailing, complete cure of disease. But so much of what we seek medical care for is largely preventable or can be treated more efficiently and effectively minimally or even outside the traditional health care system - such as by better diet, physical therapy, and stress management. Which is not to suggest one not utilize physicians and the rest of the "traditional" health care system when needed but, rather, to use it only when necessary and use it as wisely as possible - understanding the failings of modern medicine.


    In other words, when we are seeking health information, what we are really seeking is help in living an optimized life. Getting what we really want out of using the health care system: Better health and better health outcomes and, ultimately, to need the health care system less, because we are healthier because of and despite it.


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    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.


Published On: August 03, 2013