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Using reliable sources

Fiona Morgan signposts some particularly valuable and reliable sources of health evidence.
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In this section, we’ll be taking you through a range of resources you may find helpful. It’s not meant to be a full list. We’re an English-speaking, UK-based team, and the resources we’re sharing with you tend to reflect that. A little later on we’ll be asking you to help us expand the list by letting us know about the high quality resources you’ve identified. The first group we’re going to share with you are websites that evaluate research. The first of these is one we’ve mentioned several times in week one. Behind the Headlines is an excellent resource. Updated daily, it looks at research reported in the media. It also has a very useful glossary of terms used in health research.
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The next is the Cancer Research UK science blog. It focuses on cancer-related research. If this is an area of interest, you will find it very helpful. We’ll be coming back to it in week four when we look at risk in more detail. “Bad Science” is the blog of Ben Goldacre, an advocate of evidence-based medicine. Doctor Goldacre is one of the founders of All Trials, an organisation that’s trying to ensure the results of all research are published. Currently, only about 50% of data from clinical trials are available. Health Evidence focus on systematic reviews of public health research. It collects reviews and rates them according to how well they’ve been conducted. PubMed Health has information on the prevention and treatment of disease.
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It’s part of the US National Library of Medicine and links to information from a variety of sources, like Health Evidence, much of it focuses on systematic reviews of evidence. The National Elf Service, a bit of a pun on the UK National Health Service, provides some recent research in several areas– diabetes, dentistry, learning disabilities, mental health, musculoskeletal disorders, and social care. Health News Review, like Behind the Headlines, focuses on how research is reported. In addition to research in the press, it also looks at the press releases behind those stories. If you like video content then the Healthcare Triage YouTube channel may be more your thing. Aaron Carroll produces regular weekly updates, and there’s an archive of the most widely viewed content.
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Now there’s a range of resources provided by government health departments and ministries. The following are just a few from the UK in the USA. In the UK, one of the most widely used resources is NHS Choices, a website for patients. The website is home to Behind the Headlines and it provides clear and straightforward information on a wide range of health topics. Medline Plus is provided by the US National Institutes of Health. It offers reliable and up to date information again the general public. Next step, we have the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency’s purpose is to develop high-quality health evidence and to make sure that evidence is used and understood.
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One of their latest initiatives is a patient safety channel on YouTube. The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, is the regulatory body that approves medicines and devices in the USA. The site has a range of useful resources, including product information for drugs and devices. If you’re interested in guidelines for treatment management, the National Guidelines Clearing House gives you useful summaries of evidence-based guidance developed in the USA. We’ve identified a few international resources, and we’d really welcome your input to identify more. The best known resource is probably the World Health Organisation. Their website contains a vast array of information with global perspectives on health. The Cancer Atlas is something we identified fairly recently.
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You may find this useful in week four when we consider risk. There are a range of database resources that can be very useful. The biggest medical database is PubMed. We haven’t actually included this here because in most cases, the amount of information retrieved in the search is simply overwhelming. However, if you’re researching a condition that we know little about, PubMed maybe the best place to start. NICE Evidence Search can be a very good place. You’ll find guidance, systematic reviews, and large scale research. Searching a database like this is a lot easier than searching the internet or a big resource like PubMed. Trip, like Nice Evidence Search, is another great starting point.
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We find that some people like one better than the other. Try them both to see what you prefer. The Cochrane Library may not be fully available in all countries, but you should still be able to get summaries. And it produces some of the most rigorous systematic reviews of the evidence in the world. The Electronic Medicines Compendium is a searchable database of information on all drugs approved for use in the UK. If you come from outside the UK and have a similar resource, we’ll be asking you to add the details a little later on. Health charities can be a terrific source of useful information on a particular disease or condition.
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There are so many charity websites we really didn’t know where to start. Here are just three UK websites that provide clear and balanced information on cancer– Cancer Research UK, we’ve already mentioned them below, MacMillan Cancer Support, and finally Marie Curie, which also covers the spectrum of palliative care, which is care that maintains rather than cures. In our last section, we give you a couple of sources of quality marks. Looking for websites that display these marks can give you more confidence in the quality of the information you’re getting. The Health on the Net Foundation provides certification. Sites that are certified agree to contribute objective and transparent medical information.
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Finally, sites that have the UK Information Standard quality mark have declared a commitment to trustworthy health and care information. They provide assurances that the quality of their internal processes. Hopefully, this has given you some resources that you can be confident in using. Please use the comments section and let us know whether or not you find them useful.
As we’ve learned, the amount of health information on the web can be overwhelming. In this video, we signpost some of the most reliable and trustworthy sources to help you focus your search. We’ve added all these links to a pdf – available below – that you can download and keep.
How useful do you find these? We are really interested to hear what you think about the resources we’ve shared.
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Making Sense of Health Evidence: The Informed Consumer

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