WebMD Gets an “A” for Swine Flu Guide and a “C” for Guide to Never Feeling Tired Again

August 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm 1 comment

WebMD.com is often listed as the most popular health Web site. I find their design is too busy and their content varies considerably in quality. Every time I look at WebMD for a specific purpose, I am distracted by the ads, such as a video advertisement playing next to the text I am reading – how distracting is that? Sometimes I am there for a specific purpose and find myself clicking on the slide show or provocatively-titled articles – did someone say stickiness?

Some of their content deserves an “A”. In an analysis, their Swine Flu Guide was superior to the CDC’s and other sites at providing answers to the questions likely to be on healthcare consumer’s minds.

Other content is less impressive. The most recent article that I read when I was at WebMD for a different purpose was the irresistibly-titled guide to never feeling tired again. I was surprised that the guide, subtitled “22 ways to tackle life’s biggest energy zappers”, was from Redbook Magazine since I thought WebMD wrote their own content. The first page of the four-page article was about how to “Energize Your Diet”. It recommended that I eat breakfast to feel perkier, stay hydrated, etc. While I questioned is I wanted to feel perkier, most of the advice seemed reasonable.

I had just finished teaching a course and asked one my students, Alicia Romano, a master’s candidate in the Friedman Nutrition School at Tufts University School of Medicine and a Dietetic Intern at the Frances Stern Nutrition Center, for her opinion on the article. She responded,

As far as the nutrition related pieces are concerned (generally the first page of the article) the information is pretty accurate in terms of increasing your energy throughout the day (keeping your blood sugars stable and staying hydrated).  I haven’t read much related to the omega-3’s and increasing your energy, so that was interesting.  As far as the other information was concerned, it sounded a little “fluffy” to me, to be honest.  I think all of the tips are good, but overall, I think getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising, and eating healthy and frequently throughout the day are the major keys to energy.  I was not too happy to see that they reviewed some of the new “products” at the end.  I have never even heard of half of those, and I’m sure most readers haven’t either.  If anything they are going to be informing readers of these products that they shouldn’t even try.  Their reviews weren’t on the efficacy either, just a simple quotation. I think the title is a little deceiving as well, but then again, it is from a magazine (Redbook).  I was actually surprised to see they would post a magazine article on WebMD (Personal correspondence, A.R, August 11, 2009).

I appreciate Alicia’s assessment and, based on her analysis and mine, I give the article a “C”. Some good suggestions but only a few references, no links, an introduction with only the merest hint of the content, and no conclusions or resources for further exploration. While WebMD provides many mechanisms to share an article, there are none to comment on or rate the accuracy or usefulness of an article so neither Alicia or I could post our feedback. I looked for the original Redbook article and found that while it seemed essentially the same, although split onto more pages, the links to useful sites such as the American Dietetic Association (ADA) were removed in the WebMD version. Can I lower the “C” to a “C-“?

Entry filed under: health. Tags: , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sher  |  October 28, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I don’t trust WebMD. It’s like nothing but a huge drug ad. Some of the information is vague and some articles on specific illnesses actually take you to an article about the latest ‘wonder drug’ advertised on the endless medicine commercials on TV. If you want to know about fibromyalgia, for instance, you are taken to a page about Cymbalta. If this isn’t a medical site in the clutches of drug companies, I don’t know what is!

    Reply

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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