Health information: ‘Oh, I don’t know what to believe’

08 July 2021
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Health Information Week takes place from 5 to 11 July 2021. It’s a campaign to promote high quality health information, which can really help people stay healthy and manage their conditions well.

How can I decide what to trust?

As there’s so much health information available – and conflicting stories are not uncommon – it can be hard to know what to believe.

Here are a few tips that might help you:

  • Read beyond the headline.
  • Headlines are designed to grab readers’ attention, but unfortunately health information is rarely so simple that it can be conveyed accurately in just a few words.
  • Consider the evidence.
  • Are the claims backed up by research data with references stated or at least available on request
  • Use a fact-check website or app or consult the experts.

There are a number of websites that fact-check news stories, including:

How do we make sure our health information is reliable?

At Versus Arthritis, we have a dedicated team who produce our health information.

We work with healthcare professionals and people with arthritis to make sure all our information is up-to-date, clear, accurate and helpful for people with arthritis and other related conditions.

All of our information is user-led – which means it’s based on what we know people with arthritis want information about. We know there are many different experiences when living with arthritis, which is why we work with a range of people from different backgrounds.

Hilary works with us to help review our health information. Here, she shares her experiences of living with arthritis and why it’s important to know where to go for trustworthy health information.

“For many years I’ve been aware that the osteoarthritis in my knee was getting worse.”

When my osteoarthritis was becoming so painful. I took paracetamol but it had no effect on my pain.

My first port of call for health information was my GP. Unfortunately, that was not a helpful experience. Despite telling him that the paracetamol did not work, he recommended I take the maximum dose a day.

When that did not work, he prescribed co-codamol. I was reluctant to take this as I knew it was an opioid drug and I didn’t want to become addicted.

“I turned to the Versus Arthritis website and I can honestly say that the information has transformed my life.”

After reading more about what could help my arthritis symptoms, I decided to lose weight and I started doing the simple knee exercises they recommended.

I read the review of complementary medicines with interest, as I would much prefer to use them than drugs. I learnt about capsaicin cream, made from chilli peppers, which research has shown has a significant impact in reducing pain in osteoarthritis. It’s now recommended by NICE.

Through the information I received from Versus Arthritis I heard of a research project at Salford University into the use of ‘lateral wedge technology’ in shoes to reduce the pressure on the inner knee.

I volunteered to be a part of this project and now use the orthotics they developed. I wouldn’t go anywhere without them!

“12 years on, I would regard my knee arthritis as very much under control.”

I do still get the odd twinge, but I walk for an hour a day and lead an active life.

I have recently developed arthritis in my shoulder, and I went to an expert physiotherapist who works at the local shoulder clinic my local hospital. She gave me exercises, which I supplement with Versus Arthritis exercises, and I am also using capsaicin cream.

I am in some pain but this regime makes it manageable.

“I’m delighted to be a reviewer for Versus Arthritis as I have benefited so much from their advice.”

The information provided by the charity is clear and authoritative and if I can help in any way to make sure it is helpful to others, I’m proud to do so.

There’s so much health information on the internet that you have to be very careful what you read.

My advice to anyone living with arthritis is to go to the Versus Arthritis website. There’s so much helpful information and you know you can trust it. For me, it’s been life changing. Thank you to all at Versus Arthritis.

If you would like to be a reviewer with Versus Arthritis

We work with a range of volunteers to produce health information that is clear, accurate and relevant to people with arthritis. This can involve sharing your own experiences or feedback with us or reviewing our booklets and website information before it’s published.

If you’re interested in finding out more, or working with us on some upcoming projects, complete this form or email content@versusarthritis.org to find out more.

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