Navigating health information using digital resources

By Kamilia Idir and Kenza Rais, undergraduate doctoral students in pharmacy, supervised by Alexandre Chagnon, pharmacist.

Introduction

There are a variety of sources of information in the health field: websites, blogs, forums, social networks, magazines, etc. It can be difficult to navigate among so many choices! With this abundance of resources, it is now all the more relevant to know how to target information we can trust. There are several tips to assess the reliability of a source (1, 2, 3, 4). As we will show, it is possible to assess one’s credibility by asking a series of questions while consulting a source of information.

WHO?

The URL address often gives us a clue about who is responsible for the website:

  • .gov or .gouv: the website is managed by a government agency
  • .edu: the website is managed by an educational institution
  • .org: generally used by professional and medical organizations.
Please note that anyone with a computer can create their own .org website!
  • .com (or .ca, specific to Canada) or other: domains mainly used by commercial organizations
Beware of fake websites with catchy names or with spelling errors.

Find the section About us, Who we are? or Our team. Reliable websites will provide information about the property. If this is difficult to locate, you should consider looking for another source of information! We must ask ourselves: is the author competent on the subject, is it an organization or an individual recognized in the field, are there details on their training or their affiliation to a recognized organization?

  • Health professional (doctors, pharmacists, nurses etc.)
  • Government institution (INSPQ, government of Quebec, etc.)
  • Expert in a specific scientific field

Avoid blogs / websites who qualify themselves as "experts" in naturopathy, homeopathy or who discourage to consult a doctor or another health professional.

WHAT?

  • The topic covered in the resource as well as the way it is presented is important. Information should be presented in a neutral manner and opinions should be clearly stated.
  • Ensure that the information is validated by at least two other reliable resources.
Quick tip: change keywords in the search bar for synonyms or do a similar search in French.

Check the source of the information: is it mentioned, is it reputable?

  • In general, information based on data from research, training or health professionals is reliable.
  • It should have quality seals of validated medical information such as HONcode certification, synonymous with sharing objective and quality information.

Links to other websites should also be reliable and credible resources.

WHEN?

  • Is the information presented recent?
  • How often is the website updated or revised?
Revision dates often appear at the bottom of the page or at the beginning under the heading of the section.
  • Are the links to other resources working?

WHY?

  • The mission or purpose of the resource and of the authors can guide you; is it for training, education or promotion?
If it is a subject of controversy, we will generally find different points of view.
  • The source of funding can give you an idea of ​​the reliability of the website; donations, government, advertising, etc.
  • Beware of websites with multiple advertisements or trying to convince you to buy a specific product.
  • It is important to be careful with websites asking for your personal information.
Always protect your confidential data!

WHERE?

Where does the information come from? Country, province, city, etc.

  • Does the information come from an individual: personal website, forum, blog, social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.)?
  • Does the information come from an organization?
  • What type of organization? Government, university, commercial enterprise, media (newspaper, magazine, television), association, pressure group, etc.

HOW?

Information presented in a clear and orderly fashion is generally a good indicator of its reliability.

  • It is easy to find your way around the website (table of contents, tabs, etc.).
  • The language is of a certain level and is neat (grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, etc.).
  • There is a search engine on the platform.
  • Advertisements are not included in the text.

Finally, the Internet is a pearl of information when it is well filtered. You are now ready to exercise your judgment when dealing with a health resource. At any time, when in doubt or after an unsuccessful research, you can refer to the various health professionals around you. For more details on the method to apply when searching for information, you can consult this resource created by the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University.


In order to assist you in your research, we have listed below a series of reliable health resources on different subjects:

  • General
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental health
  • Skin care
  • Sexual health
Image by Canva 

General

Websites

Websites that offer information on health, diet, donation of blood, tissues and organs, health problems, the health system and services and more:

  • Website of the various chains and banners of pharmacies: Familiprix , Jean Coutu, etc.
  • Government of Quebec
  • Government of Canada
  • INSPQ
  • Merck Manual
  • CHUM health files, HMR clinical information documents
  • Files or documents produced by the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) or the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont (HMR) in order to provide information on various diseases or conditions, on medications, diagnostic examinations or any other health information. You can search for files / documents by name or by subject.

Apps

Medisafe App 💊

  • Developed to provide a reminder to patients to take their medication. It also allows, among other things, to manage appointments and record vital signs. It is possible to send a message to a loved one if the app notes several forgotten medications.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

CareClinic App 💊

  • Allows you to manage health, by recording medications, data on diet, physical activities and more other elements. Everything can then be recorded and transferred to a healthcare professional.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Cardiovascular diseases ❤️

Websites

Heart and stroke

  • Information on cardiovascular disease support, prevention and recovery from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Montreal Heart Institute

  • Information on various cardiovascular diseases, exams and treatments.

Guide from the Ottawa Heart Institute

  • Various guides on heart disease, surgeries and how to improve heart health.

Hypertension Canada ,  Quebec Society of Arterial Hypertension

  • Information on the disease, prevention and control of high blood pressure to avoid its complications.

American Heart Association

  • Various sources and information on cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes

Websites

Diabetes Quebec

  • All about diabetes, symptoms, complications, nutrition, treatments and more.

Quebec University Hospital Diabetes Management (French only)

  • Teaching guide for the diabetic patient: understanding the type of diabetes, the use of devices, injections, diet, management of abnormal blood sugar levels, etc.

Diabetes Canada

  • Patient education and professional resources on best practices in treating diabetic patients.

Diabetes at school

  • Resource for families, schools and caregivers to help school-aged children with type 1 diabetes.

Apps

Application of blood glucose meters 📊

  • Contour next, Accu-Check, FreeStyle libre, One Touch
  • Reminder alarms, data sharing, carbohydrate count (photo of meals), medication (insulin), feedback, etc.

MySugr App 📊

  • Allows you to monitor blood glucose, manually or automatically, with a connected glucose meter (Accu-Check Guide). Offers the possibility of reminders for taking blood glucose, monitoring insulin doses and traceability of other lifestyle-related data such as physical activity or nutrition. The app also publishes reports which can be shared by pdf with healthcare professionals.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

MyfitnessPal App 🍽

  • A great app for daily calorie intake calculation. The app also features different recipes as well as suggested eating plans.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Pregnancy and breastfeeding 🤰🏾

Websites

Better Living guide

  • Better Living is a practical guide that provides scientifically-based information on pregnancy, childbirth and the first two years of a child's life.

Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada

  • Evidence-based information on pregnancy and childbirth from Canadian experts in the field.

Quick Guide - Pregnancy and Breastfeeding (French only)

  • Advice on medication and treatment for common conditions.

CHU Sainte-Justine

  • Information on various conditions often in the form of leaflets.

Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

  • Guide with information about a healthy pregnancy on prenatal nutrition, emotional health, sexual health, immunizations, breastfeeding, baby's development, childbirth and more.

Apps

OMama App 🤰🏻

  • The OMama app and website were developed by the Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN Ontario), a program of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). It allows, among other things, to ensure a pregnancy follow-up and to provide reliable information on the various subjects related to pregnancy.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Prenatal Yoga | Down Dog App 💆🏼‍♀️

  • This app offers personalized yoga sessions to pregnant women throughout their pregnancy regardless of their level.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Pediatrics 👶🏼

Websites

About Kids Health

  • Website created by The Hospital for Sick Children providing reliable health information for children, youth and caregivers in Canada and around the world.

Caring for our children

  • Information for parents on the health of their children and teenagers from Canadian pediatricians. This website is created by the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Montreal Children's Hospital

  • Resource made available to parents and families to guide them on the management of various conditions. The information can be found mainly under the heading Patients and families and Health info.

Naître et grandir

  • Reliable source of information produced in a magazine and website form, among others, and reviewed by various health professionals. It includes information for parents from pregnancy to 8 years old children.

Mental health

Websites

Center for the study of human stress

  • Center affiliated with the University of Montreal which provides tools for patients about stress and its management. In particular, it offers several free programs that can be followed and articles that address physical and mental health.

Depression - Information Guide (French only)

Canadian Mental Health Association

  • Information on mental health problems. The Help and Info section contains leaflets on various topics such as depression, loss and loneliness.

Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health

  • Resource offering support to the elderly in their mental health. Several pamphlets are available on the website and the section Organizations and Resources offers a variety of useful links.

Aire ouverte

  • Service offered to young people aged 12 to 25 concerning mental or physical health and other subjects of concern to young people. They have several points of service in Quebec that can be found through their website.

Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention

  • Initiative created with the aim of helping, informing and preventing suicide. There has recently been the addition of a chat feature available 24/7 on the website.

Apps

My Tools App 🛠

  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: French, English and others

RESO App 👫👭

  • App giving access to a toolbox in order to follow the mental state and to provide users adapted and personalized strategies. Telephone resources are directly accessible on the app.
  • Available: Android and IOS
  • Language: French, English.
  • Identified using TherAppX

Headspace App 🧘‍♀️

  • App that can be used daily to help manage difficult thoughts and emotions through the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Mindshift App 🧠

  • App using strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) developed by Anxiety Canada for learning to relax and practice mindfulness to better manage anxiety.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Sanvello App 📔

  • Management of anxiety and depression by various validated functionalities including a logbook, mindfulness exercises, goals achievement and more.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Skin Care 🛁

Websites

Canadian Dermatology Association

  • Association representing all dermatologists in Canada. Information on various skin conditions is available in the Public and Patients section.

American Academy of Dermatology

  • Source providing information on various skin conditions and on skin, nail and hair care.

Eczema Society of Canada

  • Association of health professionals providing information on the management of eczema.

Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada

  • Resource providing information on the management of acne and rosacea. The information is available under the heading Acne Site and Rosacea Site.

Sexual health 🍑🍆

Websites

Sex and me

  • Informative website produced by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. It includes various topics such as Contraception, STIs and Consent.

S'explique (French only)

  • Information resource provided by sex therapists on various topics such as contraception, fertility, STIs, menopause and more.

Sexual Health Ontario

  • Website created by Ontario Public Health providing general information on sexuality from STIs to contraception.

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

  • Source providing information on abortion, reproductive health, STIs and more.

Apps

FLO App 🔎

  • App allowing women to follow their menstrual cycle,  list certain symptoms and more. It is possible to print data or put it in PDF format for sharing.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: French, English and others
  • Identified using TherAppX

Clue App 🤸‍♀️

  • Allows you to enter information about your menstrual cycle and menstrual symptoms to plan a future pregnancy or to manage contraception. The app is also approved by the FDA as a digital contraceptive method.
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Language: English, French and other
  • Identified using TherAppX

Natural Cycles App 🤳🏻

  • Medical tool certified as a digital contraceptive method and for fertility monitoring in the US and Europe. The app allows women to document and track their menstrual cycles and signs of fertility (basal body temperature and cervical mucus).
  • Available: IOS and Android
  • Languages: English and Other
  • Identified using TherAppX

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