5153.0: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - Board 3

Abstract #8845

Balance and Bias on the Internet: What have we learned from a case study of breast cancer web sites?

Julie A. Becker, PhD(c), MPH and Sheryl Burt Ruzek, PhD, MPH. Department of Health Studies, Temple University, 2534 Swain Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130, 215-763-0754, jbecker@astro.temple.edu

Increasingly, the Internet is viewed as an avenue for providing health information and a mechanism to eliminate health disparities. Consumers and health professionals have expressed concern over the quality of health information on the Internet; however questions concerning balance and bias in health information have not been raised. This study used a purposive sample of 5 primary web sites followed by a snowball technique for examining 97 secondary, linked sites that contained breast cancer information. A content analysis tool was derived from 15 rating systems that previously examined quality but not balance. Links from primary to secondary web sites were studied to assess the degree to which balanced and biased perspectives were presented to users of the primary sites. Factors identified as important for assessing balance and bias include: presenting information in a comprehensive manner; presenting a wide variety of information; detailing authorship; maintaining current information; disclosing conflicts of interest; and linking to web sites that represent different perspectives. Key findings were that, of the 5 primary web sites studied, only 1 was coded as presenting balanced viewpoints. On the secondary web sites, only 7.5% presented balanced perspectives. Public health professionals need to raise awareness of balance and bias on cancer web sites among both consumers and professionals and take steps to ensure that balanced information is available for making critical health decisions.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the presentation, participants will be able to: - describe the methods used for performing Internet research - describe results of these methods - identify some of the larger issues facing researchers using the Internet - identify concerns that consumers and health care professionals must consider when using health information from web sites

Keywords: Health Communications, Internet

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA