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Dr Harrys Health Column
Doctor Harry

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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

Bookmark or get his page as a favourite to keep up with Dr Harry's latest recommended sites on-line...

A moving and well-produced account about Asperger syndrome is certainly worth checking out, so look at http://www.btinternet.com/~witwicki/index.html. Asperger Syndrome is a variant of Autism (for more information on this topic see the previous edition of this column-edition 4) and as such, it's not a condition that we come across much. This web site contains a riveting and eloquent account how a sufferer living in the UK has encountered problems. His story gives the reader amazing insight in to the effects of an illness on such a young person. In particular look at the autobiography at http://www.btinternet.com/~witwicki/page3.html. This home made site is a shining example of how an individual can publicise their cause cheaply and effectively. For more information about Asperger syndrome direct your browser in the direction of http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/

There is nothing worse than seeing a child with a disability - regardless of the nature. Most of these children are cared for at home and so the main bulk of their care lies with their parents. Often the parents are rather isolated whilst family and friends may be at a loss as to what to say or do. There is a charity called 'contact a family' based in the U.K. and they have a helpful web site based at http://www.cafamily.org.uk/. It's neatly laid out and the home page starts with the sobering statistic that in the United Kingdom, more than sixty children are either diagnosed or born with a major defect every day. The site is packed with oodles of practical information for carers of disabled children and the health professionals that may need to look after them.

The health education authority has spawned a web presence found at http://www.hea.org.uk/. At the moment the site contains basic information, principally about the organisation and its workings. No doubt it will become a more useful source of health material in the future. Even so this web site raises the profile of the health education authority and that cannot be a bad thing. At the bottom of the home page there is a link to a site on alcohol -http://www.wrecked.co.uk. It's a colourful and informative site which gives good sensible advice about alcohol consumption. At the home page you are invited to download the shockwave plug in for the shockwave version. I did not do this and tried out "the frill free" version. It is pretty good - have a go.

Many hospitals are establishing a presence on the web and a good example is the Dublin-based Coombe's women's hospital. The welfare of hospitals and the community that they serve are dependent on each other and so it is good public relations for the hospital to keep the community informed about what is going on. The home page http://www.coombe.ie/ is clearly designed and it seems to be kept well up to date. There is plenty to get your teeth into, for example, if you are pregnant and want to estimate when the baby is due, then check out the calculator at http://www.coombe.ie/patient/edd.html. There is also an excellent collection of good links found at http://www.coombe.ie/links.html. Establishing and maintaining a web site is not cheap and with hospital budgets always under pressure, it's not always easy to justify the cost of establishing a web presence. Even so it's likely that in years to come virtually all hospitals will have a shop front in cyberspace.

Another interesting healthcare project involving the local community can be found at http://www.silcom.com/~sblc/. This is the home page of The Santa Barbara Lupus and Rheumatic Diseases Group. As the page loads within the web browser, the reader is greeted with some music and an informative site appears. The subject matter is self-explanatory and the intended audience is wide - basically anyone with an interest in the subject. All the material comes off the home page and it's worth a visit.

Sometimes if you want to look up a broad topic on the net then it's easy to get lost in the vast reams of data. A search engine may generate hundreds even thousands of hits. Now with the web so well developed it's easier to guess a URL and see what you hit. For example let's say you are interested in kidney disease, then type in to your browser http://www.kidney.org/ and see where that takes you. In fact it ends up at the National Kidney Foundation and the reader is provided with some excellent information about kidney disease. Sometimes you have to play about with the final part of the address. Try adding .com, .org, .org.uk or .co.uk after the nominated word. It does not always work, for example try http://www.heart.com and you will be exploring issues of the romantic nature!

'Web Site of the Month'

Every so often I come across a feature packed health site and one worth mentioning is the aptly titled URL http://bewell.com/. This contains vast reams of helpful information about general health. Special mention must be made of the home page, it is a model of excellence for the effective way it allows easy access to all the sections of the site. The simplest way to assess this site is by surfing and following the hypertext links which interest you. A particularly useful section is the diagnostic procedure handbook found online at http://bewell.com/dph/index.shtml. This is a mine of practical information about tests and procedures. Well worth a look.

Another site which scores well in trying to maintain health awareness is the women's cancer network which is based at http://www.wcn.org/. This focuses on cancers that affect women, in particular cancer of the reproductive tracts and breast. Though it has distinctly American origins, the site has helpful information for women all over the world. Increased awareness of such topics has an important knock-on effect towards earlier diagnosis and hopefully better outcomes. One useful service for the reader is the risk assessment for developing such cancers. After completing the quite detailed questionnaire at http://www.wcn.org/risk/, a report will be generated which tries to assess the chance of developing such cancers. As the page correctly states, this is by no means a substitute for professional care. Even so it is certainly thought provoking.

Fertility problems can be emotionally and even physically demanding and so support and counselling can be a valuable adjunct to the treatment process. Within this context, a web based service can be extremely useful. One fine example is the UK based http://www.issue.co.uk/. The home page is simple to navigate from and it's easy to get the maximum benefit from this site. Have a look at http://www.issue.co.uk/backgrd.htm for more background information. In particular learn that about 1 in 6 folk can be affected by a fertility problem. The jewel of the crown in this site can be found at http://www.issue.co.uk/issueinf.htm. This is a superb list links to a vast array of associated resources scattered all over the net. This page is a must for anyone interested in the infertility field.

Have you ever wandered about a bookshop and looked longingly at the range of large computer based tomes and wondered if they were worth buying. Well one large publisher Macmillan has very kindly put some of their computer books online. Pop in to http://www.mcp.com/personal/ and fill out the relatively straightforward registration form. Shortly afterwards you can have up to five books on your virtual bookshelf. The service is free and you can access them for up to 90 days. After 90 days, you can repeat the process all over again either with the same book or another one. Obviously it's a marketing ploy to try and buy the books but even so it's an impressive offering.

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 drharry@nhs50.nhs.uk

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.

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