209645 Assessing Quality of Health Education Websites on Menopause

Monday, November 9, 2009

Linda Moyer, BS , Department of Health Studies, East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA
Lani Culley, BS , Department of Health Studies, East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA
Steven Godin, PhD, MPH , Community Health Education Program, East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA
The Internet has become an important consumer education tool for those seeking to improve their health literacy. Despite the proliferation of health education websites, concerns remain within the field of consumer health informatics regarding the quality of Internet-based health information. This study used a instrument developed by Godin (2005; 2008) that assessed quality of 50 websites providing health education on menopause. Two raters, with acceptable Kappa inter-rater reliability coefficients found the following: 1) Only 57% of the sites provided information on the author(s) professional credentials; 2) Less than 35% of the sites indicated the educational material was "peer reviewed" by appropriate parties; 3) Approximately 62% of the sites provided references to support narrative; 4) About 60% of the websites indicated a date of most recent update; however, the range of months since last update varied from one to 54 months; 5) While about 40% of the websites indicated how they were financially supported, almost 75% provided advertisements that may pose perceived or real conflicts of interest; 6) Many of the websites (80%) allowed for user interaction (i.e., question/answer scenarios); however, only 18% of the sites informed the user that information obtained in these interactions would be confidential, or that privacy would be maintained. 7) None of the websites used any form of behavior change theories; and 8) Average readability index was measured at 11.0 grade level (most Americans read at the 5th-7th grade). The study also assessed whether “cookies” were placed on the hard drive of the visitor. Cookies being placed on hard drives pose significant confidentiality issues, especially if consumers access these websites at their places of employment. Results of this study are discussed within the context of efforts being made within federal public health organizations (i.e., NIH; FDA) to oversee and regulate websites that originate within the US.

Learning Objectives:
1. List criteria needed to assess quality of health education websites; 2) Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of existing health education websites on menopause; 3) Articulate the need for federal organizations to oversee and regulate Internet-based health promotion and health literacy efforts.

Keywords: Women's Health, Internet Tools

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This study was part of my MPH degree requirements. Specifically, this research was my publishable paper requirement, supervised by the faculty at East Stroudsburg University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.