Improving health literacy improves public health and wellness. One of the biggest obstacles with health literacy is that the best health information isn’t always the most accessible information. This means that the burden of improving health literacy often falls on the shoulders of doctors and medical professionals. It’s true that health information must be easier to understand; simplifying the language, avoiding jargon, and using fewer technical terms can help. However, that’s just one part of the problem.
Here are things that everyone can do to help improve health literacy. If you’re a doctor, make sure that you are implementing good SEO practices for doctors to cut through the inaccurate health information online.
Put in the work
It’s normal to follow the path of least resistance. Water does it. People do it. Patients seeking accurate health information do it, too. If it’s difficult to learn something — too much jargon and technical language — patients will find an easier answer.
They might tap out after 15 seconds of trying to crack into a dense, technical research paper, but they will spend 30 minutes watching someone with the same amount of credibility and authority on health care as themselves rant about an experience at the doctor’s office supported by some “facts” they found on Google.
If doctors put in the work to make health information more accessible, patients must also put in the work to make sure the information that they find is accurate.
Learn to identify credible sources
Generally speaking, websites with endings (TLDs) .edu, .gov, .org, and .md tend to be more credible than sites with the ending .com or .net. This isn’t always true, however. Don’t trust these endings alone, and don’t dismiss just anything that doesn’t have these endings.
Do some research and learn about the organization, the author of the article, or content creator. Is the author a doctor, or a registered nurse? A professional medical blogger? A stay at home mom? Be wary of sound-alike organizations.
Check multiple resources.
It’s a good idea to see if the information you find from one credible source is backed up by another source. This helps you identify inaccurate health information, but also there isn’t always consensus in medicine.
Even medical specialists who are experts in a field can disagree with one another. Check different information, look for patterns, see what is generally accepted, and what information is still up for debate.
Ask questions and be critical
Does that sound right? Is the health information that you just read surprising? Does it sound hard to believe? Dig deeper and check the facts.
Don’t just look up the things you disagree with, though.
Be aware of confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to skew information to fit our personal beliefs. We’re also more willing to accept ideas and information that reinforces our philosophies, theories, and beliefs.
Confirmation bias can also lead patients to search specifically for the answers they want. Searching for “is bacon healthy?” will bring up more positive results for the health benefits of bacon than “is bacon bad for your health?”.
Being aware of this flaw can help you spot when you’re falling victim to it.
Where is the information coming from?
How did the source get their information? Is the data from a single survey, source, or experiment? Was the information self-reported? Was it a study that examined hundreds of medical cases? Is the information anecdotal? Is it an opinion?
Also check the dates to see when the information was published. Older experiments and publications don’t necessarily lose validity, but be more critical of older citations and make sure they still hold true.
Make sure that you’re not part of the problem. Everyone can be more critical and careful about the health information that they share. Research your topic thoroughly, check sources, provide resources. If you’re a doctor or health and wellness professional, you need to make sure that you’re putting out reliable information that is easy for your audience to read and understand. Hiring a professional medical blogger or an SEO copywriter who specializes in writing medical content can help. Medical bloggers understand technical health information, they know how to differentiate between medical facts and unfounded opinions, and communicate accurate health information in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand.