April 2015

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Sharing Reliable Health Information

10 Years of NIH News in Health

You hear and read health advice all the time—from friends, online sources, radio, TV, and more. How do you know what health information you can trust? This issue marks the 10-year anniversary of NIH News in Health, the monthly newsletter based on research supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health—the nation’s medical research agency. Every article in this newsletter is carefully reviewed by NIH experts, so you can be confident that the health news you read here is trustworthy.

So far, we’ve brought you 600 articles on all kinds of topics. They’ve ranged from healthy eating and physical activity to the microbes within you, personalized medicine, and the hazards of stress. We’ve learned from our tens of thousands of readers that you appreciate these stories and often share the information with your friends, family, and others.

People love exchanging health information. More than half of adults nationwide say they turn to friends or family for health information or support when facing a serious health issue. People also share health information within their communities—at school, work, places of worship, and various events.

The quality of the health information you get depends on the source. “When looking online for health information, it’s a good idea to start with reputable websites, such as government websites,” says NIH’s Stephanie Dailey, who specializes in sharing health information with older adults. “Government agencies have well-researched information that’s been vetted by expert scientists and doctors.”

“Students and others can be drawn to websites with quirky or ‘amazing’ health stories that may be inaccurate,” says Timothy Keady, who heads the student wellness center at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “We always try to steer them back toward more appropriate health information that’s based on science. We know that information from NIH, the CDC, and other agencies is going to be accurate.”

Like all the information available from NIH, the stories in NIH News in Health undergo multiple levels of review before you ever see them. Researchers interviewed for each story read and comment on draft articles to make sure they’re correct. NIH health and science experts also review each story before it’s published. The goal is to give you reliable, science-based information so you can make informed decisions about staying healthy and seeking medical care.

In recognition of the newsletter’s 10th year, we turned to readers like you to learn how you’ve been sharing NIH News in Health and other health information with your community. We’ve learned that the articles are shared in many different ways. Teachers in California and elsewhere have shared stories with their students on how sleep affects learning and health (Why You Need a Good Night's Sleep and How Snoozing Strengthens Memories). A middle school nurse in Texas copies and shares articles with school staff and makes the newsletter available to visiting parents. And the staff of a hospital in Montana says they read the online version and discuss the newsletter’s stories, which ultimately helps to improve their conversations with patients.

Community health clinics, senior centers, libraries, and nonprofit organizations across the country share copies of NIH News in Health with their communities. In Florida, the Franklin County Health Department distributes the newsletter to patients and staff in 2 rural, remote public health clinics. At the Friend Family Health Center in Illinois, NIH News in Health is shared at large neighborhood clinics in the southeast and southwest sides of Chicago.

In the Rocky Mountains, a nonprofit agency has been sharing NIH News in Health with older adults and their caregivers for nearly a decade. “The newsletter regularly offers relevant health information for our seniors. It’s something they really look forward to each month,” says Stephen M. Holland, director of the Upper Arkansas Area Agency on Aging, based in Salida, Colorado. The newsletter is available at the agency’s meal sites. It’s also given to older adults who receive home-delivered meals. “Although some of our participants are active users of the Internet, others for the most part are not computer literate, so they really rely on the printed information,” Holland says.

In rural Oregon, copies of NIH News in Health are distributed to a largely Native American community by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a tribal organization that provides a range of services, including home health care visits and transportation to medical facilities. “We place the newsletter in our elders’ meal site and in the lobby of the community health clinic, in adult foster care, and next to the pharmacy, so people can read it while waiting for prescriptions,” says community health director Kari Culp. “We’ve found the newsletters to be very informative and much appreciated by our community members and also our medical staff.”

Many people share health information by putting it where people are waiting and where it will be seen. At several colleges and universities, for instance, officials have been placing easy-to-read health information in common bathrooms—an approach sometimes called “stall talk.

In Rochester, Keady puts NIH News in Health in the school’s health clinic and counseling waiting rooms. He also brings the newsletters to lectures and presentations on health and wellness. “Although students search for a lot of health information online, they still like to read some information on paper, especially while they’re waiting or relaxing in a common area,” Keady says. “Stories on stress and other psychological issues are of special interest to students. And they tend to gravitate to stories on exercise, sleep, and nutrition.”

School, church, and community newsletters often reprint NIH News in Health stories in their publications because they know they can trust the content. Organizations focused on diabetes, healthy aging, mental illness, and other medical issues also reprint NIH News in Health stories in their own publications. The articles aren’t copyrighted, so they can be freely republished, as long as NIH News in Health is credited as the source (see http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/about for details).

No matter where you gather and read health information, it’s a good idea to discuss what you’ve found with your health care provider. Your provider can help you understand and interpret what you’ve found.

“Being well informed about a condition can be helpful when you visit your doctor,” Dailey says. “You may wish to print out some of the information you find to share with your doctor during your appointment.”

We love hearing from readers who let us know how they share and use health information, including NIH News in Health. Thanks for sharing your feedback, story ideas, and other comments over the past decade. We look forward to bringing you 10 more years of evidence-based health information. Share your thoughts with us at nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov or send us a photo of how you or others use the newsletter, and we may post it to our Facebook page.