Harnessing the Power of the Internet for Health Literacy

July 1, 2009
Jill taylor

There's a new website launched that has some serious potential to benefit the general public, called CelebrityDiagnosis.com.

I have to admit that since discovering Bloglines earlier this week, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time reading feeds from cool websites I previously didn’t know existed, like Lifehacker (love the Hive Five), Engadget, and my new guilty pleasure, Bakerella. Bloglines is having technical hiccups, but I like the functionality it offers right now over Google Reader.

For information junkies like me, life on the Web continues to be good. Of course, I’m a halfway decent judge of information integrity due to my background in journalism, science, and life experience. If I want medical information, for example, I have a leg up on the general public with respect to finding something that is medically correct, and understanding what I read. Unfortunately, there are millions of internet users that don’t possess those literacies, and they read and accept information that is less—sometimes much less–than correct.

However, there’s a new website launched that has some serious potential to benefit the general public, called CelebrityDiagnosis.com. Don’t be put off by the fluffy title—it provides solid information about medicine and health. The website is the brainchild of pediatrician Michele Berman, MD, and her husband, Mark Boguski, MD, who is on faculty at Harvard Medical School.

CelebrityDiagnosis.com uses the public’s interest in celebrities to impart medical and health information, offering links to “casebooks” where readers can find additional information on specific diseases and conditions. Could Michael Jackson have suffered from lupus, as Deepak Chopra recently claimed? What exactly is lupus and how do you get it? What are the different painkillers being discussed in Jackson’s death and what kind of investigation is toxicology? CelebrityDiagnosis takes stories and questions like these and educates the reader, including debunking misconceptions that get reported by the media.

The site is very new, but I think Berman and Boguski deserve huge props for coming up with an idea that will likely appeal not just to the general public, but to tweens and teens for whom the Internet is their first—and often only–source of information.