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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 1999

Book Reviews

How to Find Health Information on the Internet

Cristina Campbell
Public Health Library
University of California
Berkeley, CA
ccampbel@library.berkeley.edu

How to Find Health Information on the Internet. Bruce Maxwell. Washington, D.C. : Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998. 332 p. $35.95 (ISBN 1-56802-271-9)

Author Bruce Maxwell has put his skills as an investigative journalist to good use in producing a guide that will save any person looking for health information on the Internet from the frustration of looking through the results pulled up by your garden variety search engine. The entries, which include free websites, newsgroups, and mailing lists, are organized topically and have made it into the guide only after careful scrutiny by the author. Annotations provide useful information about content or the producer.

A particularly valuable feature is the introduction which provides thoughtful guidelines on how to judge the quality of health information on the Internet. The text of the nonprofit Health on the Net Foundation (HON) Code of Conduct is reproduced, so the significance of a HON logo on a site is explained. The author also makes a point of reminding readers that the Internet is only one of many tools available to the person seeking health information.

Mr. Maxwell has made solid selections for each of the categories of sources. My only quibble is that the entry for the Yahoo! "health" page does not alert the users that although the sites have been selected by Yahoo! staff for their topical interest, they have certainly not been evaluated for content. One hopes the users will have paid attention to the author's guidelines on judging for quality!

The guide also includes a glossary of Internet terms and a thorough index. You can visit the author's website (http://bmaxwell.home.mindspring.com) to read the book's introduction, table of contents, and links to some of the author's favorite health websites, as well as to ordering information.

The author intends to update the guide on a regular basis. Given the quality of this first edition, I will certainly be watching for future ones. I hope he will include the new resource developed for consumer health information by the National Library of Medicine: MEDLINEplus. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/); it would be a worthy and excellent addition to his guide.

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