Health Literacy is the ability to access, understand and apply information to make informed decisions about your health.
If you can't find the right information, or if it is written in complicated medical terms that are difficult to understand, it's very difficult to know how best to look after yourself. Without the right information you may accidentally buy in to dubious or untried medical treatments that cost money and may do more harm than good. Following the wrong advice may even be dangerous.
A lot of people use an Internet search service to find medical advice. This video from Bupa gives some good general advice on how to tell if an information source is trustworthy:
There are currently two quality marks that organisations can apply for to demonstrate that they are supplying accurate information:
Health on the Net Foundation (HON)
The PIF Tick
If you see these quality marks on a webpage it is a sign that the information they are putting out is trustworthy.
These can usually be trusted, although be wary of anyone posing as an official charity or organisation if they appear to be selling medical cures or treatments.
The following organisations offer reliable up-to-date health information aimed at the public. ** Please note that these links are for guidance only. If you have any health concerns you should always speak to your doctor first. **
- The NHS Website - www.nhs.uk - see the user guide
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) - www.nice.org.uk
- Patient UK - patient.info
- Mind - www.mind.org.uk
- Contact (For families with disabled children) - contact.org.uk
- Health talk online - healthtalk.org
- Health unlocked - healthunlocked.com
You can also look for information about specific illnesses or disabilities on the websites of Charities specializing in those conditions. However, it's always best to check a charities credentials if it is not one you are familiar with.
Getting the right information to make sensible decisions about your health can seem a little daunting. The Health Savvy Website is a collection of resources to help you find good sources of health information and also contains links to some tools to help you access information more easily.
But how can you tell if the health information you are looking at is true? One way is to ask - does it make sense?
The following websites introduce Critical Thinking in a fun and easy to understand way:
Logical Fallacies - https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com
"A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Logical fallacies are like tricks or illusions of thought, and they're often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. Don't be fooled! This website has been designed to help you identify and call out dodgy logic wherever it may raise its ugly, incoherent head."
Cognitive Bias - https://yourbias.is
"Cognitive biases make our judgments irrational. We have evolved to use shortcuts in our thinking, which are often useful, but a cognitive bias means there’s a kind of misfiring going on causing us to lose objectivity. This website has been designed to help you identify some of the most common biases stuffing up your thinking. "
Once you understand your cognitive biases and can spot logical fallacies it will be much harder to be fooled by anyone selling fake medicine or spreading untrue rumours. It's also easier to spot when someone is lying!
Full Fact offer a WhatsApp Messaging Fact Checking Service: If you're unsure if something you read or heard is true you can forward it as a message on WhatsApp to 07521770995
International Fact Checking Network (IFCN): This is an automated WhatsApp Bot. Message "hi" to +1 (727) 2912606 on WhatsApp to access the menu.
A number of Websites and organisations also offer fact checking:
- Snoops - https://www.snopes.com/
- BBC Reality Check - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/reality_check
- Channel 4 Fact Check - https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck
- Ferret Fact Service - https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service/
- Full Fact Website - https://fullfact.org/
- AFP Fact Check - https://factcheck.afp.com
***Please note that FAKE "fact checking" websites also exist on the internet***
If you need information about a specific condition you can access all the Isle of Wight Trust Patient Information Leaflets here.
Other trusted sources of information include your GP or Consultant, NHS Pharmacists, and Libraries.
Page last updated: March 2021