It can be difficult to wade through all of the information out there about health and medicine and the latest research, and most people simply do not have the time to do it properly. However, the information is still needed for assessment of health risks, so below is a condensed version of some of the resources available out there and how to use them properly. Scare tactics in the media are sometimes warranted, but more often than not, they truly are just a tactic to get people to change a behavior that is not particularly troublesome. All of the news in 2014 about scary hemorrhagic fevers coming to the United States proved largely unfounded, as the disease has been contained and is even finally reversing course in the countries where people are truly experiencing an outbreak. Knowing what is real and how to get the most helpful information out of the news is critical. Here are a few other sources to help you navigate the risks to your health.
- Your doctor – This should go without saying, but if you have a primary care physician you can always consult with them if you are concerned about a particular risk, symptom, or news report. There are also other resources such as nurse advice lines or hotlines where medical professionals are on call to answer questions.
- The internet – Use the web cautiously when trying to look up or verify information. It is a veritable mess of information and there is no one making sure it is true. Make sure that you spend some time figuring out which web sites are actually legitimate, like HealthMap, and distinguishing between those that are out there to scare or spread misinformation. There are a lot of really reputable sites that carry information such as signs, symptoms, and help raise disease awareness and then there are others that are out there blatantly to spread misinformation or in the name of conspiracy theories. Spend a little time to figure out which sites are worth your time, such as the virus surveillance map put out by HealthMap, and make sure not to put any time or effort into less reputable sources of information. Besides being misleading it could actually be dangerous.
- Media – Twenty four hour cable news outlets are not the only available source of information from the media. Print journalism and academic journals contain a lot of additional information. Journals in particular can be harder to sort through so reading articles that cover journals or listening to something like public radio can help you decipher the wealth of medical research that is published each year around the world. Asking your doctor for some additional resources is always a good idea. If your children have not had their flu shots, think about getting that done soon, and if someone is not feeling well and in particular, has a fever, they need to stay home from work or school that day. Flu is airborne and people are contagious when they have a fever.