Healthcare costs are rising. Unfortunately, it's not something you can usually cut from your budget. But how many times have you gone to see your healthcare provider about an ailment only to learn it's nothing? Or worse, how many times have you gone to see your healthcare provider about an unresolved issue and gotten nowhere? Either way, you're spending money, out of pocket or in co-pays. One thing you can do to help reduce these costs is to educate yourself about personal health issues. By becoming a wise healthcare consumer, you can reduce unnecessary health care visits, improve communication with your health care provider, and make fully informed decisions about treatment. This all leads to less spending on personal healthcare and the beneficial side effect of better care for you and your family.
Since healthcare isn't free, how about getting reliable health information for free? You're in luck. You don't have to spend money on medical school tuition to educate yourself. There are a variety of health-related resources you can use and they're all available to the public at no cost.
Who owns and runs the site? Is it a commercial organization trying to sell you something or is it a reliable professional organization or health system? (You'll note that government website addresses end in .gov and nonprofits end in .org). When was the website last updated? Is the information current or over five years old? Who is the audience? Is it meant for the average person or for health care professionals? Is the information accurate? Is it based on facts or opinion? Are references listed?
Good places to start looking for health information on the Web are government sources. You can search the following sites and the first two will display a collection of information from many sources.
Another way to find reliable health information on the Web is to go directly to voluntary organization websites. There is an association for just about every health issue you can imagine. Below are just a few examples. You can certainly find others by using a good search engine or even the phone book. Many organizations have local offices where you may be able to get more information and tap into local resources and support groups.
While you're on the Web, be on the look out for ways to get more information when you are not on the Web. For example, you may see that many organizations have toll-free numbers you can call for more information or for counseling. You can sometimes call and order single copies of health-related books or pamphlets for free.
Once you get going, you'll see how much information is out there. Just make sure it is safe and accurate. When it comes to your and your family's health, you don't have to settle. Obviously, saving money is not more important than your health. But, you can become active in your own healthcare, educate yourself, and avoid those unnecessary costs.
Rebecca McCoy has a master's degree in public health. She lives and writes in Baltimore, MD.
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