GP, website consultant and regular columnist in NHS Magazine on the Internet, Dr Harry Brown offers his latest selection of hot health sites on the World Wide Web
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If there is one condition which can cause widespread fear and panic-its meningitis. There are several kinds of meningitis but the version that most often makes the headlines is the meningococcal form of meningitis. Fortunately there is now help in cyberspace-The Meningitis Research Foundation have produced a useful and informative web site at http://www.meningitis.org/. In particular have a look at the symptoms page, http://www.meningitis.org/symptoms.html where there is an easy to understand but very effective guide on what to look out for. The photographs of the rash are clear enough to appreciate and make their point. For those that need more information or even reassurance, point your browser at http://www.meningitis.org/contact.html for all contact details of the organisation including information about a 24-hour helpline.
Although there are numerous disease specific sites dotted around the Internet, for example the meningitis site as mentioned previously-sometimes its useful to have a resource that has a huge diversity of information. One such site is the healthtouch site at http://www.healthtouch.com/. Its obviously a site targeted to an American audience, even so it contains a wealth of useful information that will be of interest to all nationalities. In particular point your browser at http://www.healthtouch.com/level1/hi_list.htm. This is a staggering list of health-related topics but if you are lost and cannot see the wood for the trees then check out http://www.healthtouch.com/level1/hi_toc.htm. Not only is there a broad subject index but there is also a search engine where you can try keyword searches. Of course this is not a comprehensive listing for example, a key word search on the word meningitis failed to find a single document.
The Internet is awash with news sites and the health and medical fields are no exception. So its good to see a highly respected international news gathering organisation such as Reuters have an Internet presence. Their health news site is at http://www.reutershealth.com/ and in particular have a look at http://www.reutershealth.com/frame_eline.html. This section of the web site is particularly aimed at the non-technical reader. The information is useful, well written and of course has the backing and authority of the Reuters name. Fertility awareness is an issue which can cover both trying to conceive and avoiding pregnancy. One such useful site is http://www.fertilityuk.org. Have a look at the introduction page http://www.fertilityuk.org/nfps0.html#introductionslug and from here use the navigation panel at either the top or the bottom of the page. Its easy to use and self-explanatory. There is a useful section on how to maximise your chances of falling pregnant.
Once you have fallen pregnant then the next stage is to prepare for parenthood, so one good place in cyberspace to check out is http://www.babydirectory.com/. This useful site has numerous interesting sections to browse through. In particular there are helpful sections on childhood illnesses, when to call the Doctor and common symptoms. You will find these topics located at http://www.babydirectory.com/doctor/doctor.htm. Its not a comprehensive child health section but it is well designed, informative and has attractive graphics.
You dont need the sophisticated technology of the information superhighway to tell you that smoking is bad for your health but kicking the habit is easier said than done. Numerous methods and techniques are available and needless to say there are many web sites which try to help out. One such example is at http://www.sensei.co.uk/smoke. There is the usual list of facts and figures about the dangers of smoking- http://www.sensei.co.uk/smoke/facts.html. If this does not convince you then check out some of the links at http://www.sensei.co.uk/smoke/links.html. This site deserves a high rating in terms of good design and conveys its message well.
Commercial companies have discovered the power and draw of the Internet and in particular the World Wide Web. Many adverts now contain a web address and some sites from commercial organisations contain useful and well-presented consumer orientated health information. One example of such a site is the offering from the high street pharmacy chain Boots- http://www.boots.co.uk. Once you enter in to the main navigation page, have a look at the your health section. In amongst the various health topics there is another section on quitting smoking. Some folk may find this useful and there are a few other health-orientated topics which may interest the reader.
The Internet has plenty of resources which deal with HIV and AIDS, the problem is finding the information to suit the needs of the individual. One way is to make use of the many search engines available on the net. Sometimes the huge return of possible hits can obscure that vital site which will answer your questions. One way round this problem is to find a site which is a catalogued gateway to the various aspects of HIV and AIDS. One such site is http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/Spa/7380/. Its an extremely useful site to start surfing in to other sectors of the Internet which deal with this vast subject.
Cancerbacup is a well-known British cancer organisation which provides information about cancer. Their web site is an excellent cancer resource for both patients and their Doctors. There is plenty of useful and practical information published on their website-http://www.cancerbacup.org.uk. The site is well laid out with information easily accessible, readable and useful. The information and patients sections are particularly recommended.
One of the advantages of the web is that is it relatively easy to publish information intended for a global audience. That means that disorders which are less common or have a low public profile can attract a potentially large audience. One such condition is Autism and one site to explore is http://www.autism-zone.com/. Its a very misunderstood condition and a good review of the topic can be found at http://www.autism-zone.com/autism/review.htm. Not only is this article interesting but there are good hyperlinks to associated topics. Along similar lines, the UK based National Autistic Society has a description of autism at http://www.oneworld.org/autism_uk/autism.html.
If you have any suggestions for sites to review in future editions of this column then we will be delighted to hear from you. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
No endorsement of the sites reviewed is intended by the NHS or Dr Harry and neither the NHS or Dr Harry carry any responsibility for their content.