Lesson 4 How to identify a credible source

The first thing you should do after hearing/reading an information about your health is:

“Is it credible?”

A credible source is a source that is written by an expert in the particular field and has no errors and bias.

False information may lead you to undesirable behaviours that may damage your long term health.

The best advice for pinpointing the credibility of a source is to always be skeptical.

Nothing beats human curiosity and critical thinking!

In the following slides you will be presented with some questions that you should ask yourself to find out if a source is credible enough.

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Is it from a credible public organization?

To find out, check the end of the URL.

  • .gov →governmental institute/service
  • .edu → educational institutions (school, college, university)
  • .org → Non-Governmental Organisation (professional groups, scientific, medical, or research societies, advocacy groups, etc)
  • .com → commercial websites (businesses, pharmaceutical companies, sometimes hospitals)

  • Funded by a governmental or educational institution → credible.
  • Funded by a pharmaceutical company → be skeptical.

Search the “about us” function

Finding no contact information is always a bad sign.

  • A professor or someone specialized in this field, with proper education and years of experience → credible.
  • Check the affiliation (working place of an individual): academic institution → often credible.

Remember that reading information published online can not replace consulting a doctor in real-time.

If the purpose is to educate you or guide you to a consultation with a health professional → probably credible.

If the aim is to make you buy a service or product → not credible.

  • Websites that have an “s” after the “http” (“https”), often require that you create a username and password.
  • Do not share any personal information with website that does not seem trustworthy.
  • Never share numbers with governmental value (i.e. public insurance numbers, personal healthcare-related numbers) or details that go further than the place of residence and gender.
  • If the website asks to accept “cookies”, then your information may not be private.

  • Does the product have better results than doctor-approved treatment? → maybe untrustworthy
  • Does it seem “too good to be true”? → maybe untrustworthy
  • Always remember to consult your doctor before using any treatment!

Ask: Who has published the information?

Was it a health professional, or not?

If so, keep in mind…

  • Health professionals, have specializations, meaning that they know a subject in more depth than other professionals.
  • Someone may be a health professional, there might be ulterior motives behind an advertisement.

In most cases, yes.

But, sometimes what we read or hear is too complex.

In this case, ask your doctor! He/she will either answer your question immediately or look into the subject and answer sometime later. Your doctor is here to help!

Is the website full of ads? → probably untrustworthy.

  • Many websites’ goal is to collect money from ads.