Thursday, January 19, 2012

Does More Information Lead to Healthier Life Choices?

The following is a guest blog entry.

One thing we are not in want of these days is information. Through the internet you can find out just about anything about everything – so long as you know where to look. When it comes to public health awareness such technology couldn't be more priceless. The ability for individuals to research health and medical topics is groundbreaking in that while doctors and other medical professionals are as necessary as ever, they decreasingly need to be tasked with answering questions and can instead focus more on finding the most appropriate cure. Meanwhile, members of the public can spend less money on reassurances that they are in fact not dying of cancer, at least not anytime soon.

But when it comes to such knowledge playing a part in preventive measures and thus improving the quality of life for people, it does not seem as though access to health information makes much of a difference. Amidst the advent of the Internet, this country has only seen easily-preventable illnesses skyrocket and easily-treatable afflictions increasingly be left untreated due to rising costs. Take diabetes for example. Despite type 1 diabetes news and updates, as well as more than enough information covering type 2, the symptoms of the former are more commonly being ignored due to rising healthcare costs while the latter is occurring in record numbers because individuals do not see the writing on the wall about their own health. On the surface, online sources of information such as don't seem to work as ideally as they ought to be.

Yet ask medical experts and researchers what the problem is when it comes to American healthcare and they'll likely tell you that it's a lack of public awareness regarding health information. Such is the reason why the majority of 2010 healthcare reform law was written as to assign the government a stronger role in public health awareness. The theory goes that once people are able to have enhanced access to health and medical information, they'll be less likely to wait till their maladies become costly before getting help and much more likely to prevent such health problems altogether.

Medical professionals across the country are eager to see such long-awaited awareness efforts put into action on a governmental scale. But aren't we forgetting the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans have had immediate home-based access to health knowledge for years? We've had the information right in front of us thanks to the web, yet we seem to carry on living the unhealthy lives that we do until the day comes when our bad habits transform into a $70,000 emergency surgery.

With that said, the entirety of health related information that can be found online is not exactly vetted by the medical community. For every WebMD there are millions of quack sites that hand out health information that is either outdated, out-of-sync with the majority medical opinion, or outright false. While finding the safe sources of health and medical information is quite easy, a decade of such fraudulent webpages finding their way to the top of search engine results has established a distrust of health-related information online by the majority of the public.

So are we simply waiting for trustworthy information to improve our health with? Or is it that no matter how much preventive awareness is thrown our way we'll still behave as though today's health choices are not going to affect tomorrow? Such are the questions medical professionals have been asking themselves for quite sometime, and it's unlikely we'll get the answer anytime soon.

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