How Good is the Obesity Information Canadians Find Online? Evaluating Internet Information Quality Via Google Search Engine

  • Reid M
  • Parisi J
  • Gotay C
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Abstract

Background: Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Almost a quarter of Canadians are estimated to be obese. Studies suggest that adults with conditions such as obesity are more likely to search for health information online. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of Canadians searching for health information online increased by 50%. The Google search engine (www.google.ca) accounted for almost 65% of all Internet searches in Canada for the twelve-week period ending June 16, 2012. We investigated whether commonly-used obesity search terms would produce results from commercial, government or medical sources. We also investigated if the results would provide high-quality information appropriate for a general audience. Methods: Google Trends was used to identify the most commonly searched terms in Canada related to obesity between October 2011 and September 2012. First-page search results for each term were analysed using the DISCERN tool to evaluate website quality. Information accuracy was evaluated against the 2006 Canadian obesity clinical practice guidelines. Results: Results tend to be from online magazines, non-profit, medical, and government websites; however, many of these pages were unreliable, had not been updated in over 12 months, and were beyond a Grade 8 reading level. Unaccredited sources were also highly ranked: Wikipedia was the top result for "overweight" and "obesity," and commercial sites also appeared on the first page results. Conclusions: Understanding search trends and the quality of online obesity information has implications for patient education and future research.

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Reid, M., Parisi, J., & Gotay, C. (2013). How Good is the Obesity Information Canadians Find Online? Evaluating Internet Information Quality Via Google Search Engine. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 37, S289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcjd.2013.03.349

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