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      Is Open Access

      Wikipedia: A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion

        , MD CCFP(EM) 1 , 2 , , MD FACOG 3 , , MD MASc 4 , , MRCP 5 , , MD 6 , , DSc 7 , 8 , , BMed 9 , 10 , , MD 11 , , MD 12 , 13 , , MD 14 , , PhD 15 , , MRCP 16 , , MBBS FRANZCP 17 , 18 , , MD MEd FRCPC 19 , , PhD 20 , , MD 21 , , MD , 22

      (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer)

      Journal of Medical Internet Research

      Gunther Eysenbach

      Internet, Wikipedia, public health, health information, knowledge dissemination, patient education, medical education

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          The Internet has become an important health information resource for patients and the general public. Wikipedia, a collaboratively written Web-based encyclopedia, has become the dominant online reference work. It is usually among the top results of search engine queries, including when medical information is sought. Since April 2004, editors have formed a group called WikiProject Medicine to coordinate and discuss the English-language Wikipedia’s medical content. This paper, written by members of the WikiProject Medicine, discusses the intricacies, strengths, and weaknesses of Wikipedia as a source of health information and compares it with other medical wikis. Medical professionals, their societies, patient groups, and institutions can help improve Wikipedia’s health-related entries. Several examples of partnerships already show that there is enthusiasm to strengthen Wikipedia’s biomedical content. Given its unique global reach, we believe its possibilities for use as a tool for worldwide health promotion are underestimated. We invite the medical community to join in editing Wikipedia, with the goal of providing people with free access to reliable, understandable, and up-to-date health information.

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          Most cited references 74

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          Trust and sources of health information: the impact of the Internet and its implications for health care providers: findings from the first Health Information National Trends Survey.

          The context in which patients consume health information has changed dramatically with diffusion of the Internet, advances in telemedicine, and changes in media health coverage. The objective of this study was to provide nationally representative estimates for health-related uses of the Internet, level of trust in health information sources, and preferences for cancer information sources. Data from the Health Information National Trends Survey were used. A total of 6369 persons 18 years or older were studied. The main outcome measures were online health activities, levels of trust, and source preference. Analyses indicated that 63.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 61.7%-64.3%) of the US adult population in 2003 reported ever going online, with 63.7% (95% CI, 61.7%-65.8%) of the online population having looked for health information for themselves or others at least once in the previous 12 months. Despite newly available communication channels, physicians remained the most highly trusted information source to patients, with 62.4% (95% CI, 60.8%-64.0%) of adults expressing a lot of trust in their physicians. When asked where they preferred going for specific health information, 49.5% (95% CI, 48.1%-50.8%) reported wanting to go to their physicians first. When asked where they actually went, 48.6% (95% CI, 46.1%-51.0%) reported going online first, with only 10.9% (95% CI, 9.5%-12.3%) going to their physicians first. The Health Information National Trends Survey data portray a tectonic shift in the ways in which patients consume health and medical information, with more patients looking for information online before talking with their physicians.
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            Internet encyclopaedias go head to head.

             Jim Giles (2005)
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              Empirical studies assessing the quality of health information for consumers on the world wide web: a systematic review.

              The quality of consumer health information on the World Wide Web is an important issue for medicine, but to date no systematic and comprehensive synthesis of the methods and evidence has been performed. To establish a methodological framework on how quality on the Web is evaluated in practice, to determine the heterogeneity of the results and conclusions, and to compare the methodological rigor of these studies, to determine to what extent the conclusions depend on the methodology used, and to suggest future directions for research. We searched MEDLINE and PREMEDLINE (1966 through September 2001), Science Citation Index (1997 through September 2001), Social Sciences Citation Index (1997 through September 2001), Arts and Humanities Citation Index (1997 through September 2001), LISA (1969 through July 2001), CINAHL (1982 through July 2001), PsychINFO (1988 through September 2001), EMBASE (1988 through June 2001), and SIGLE (1980 through June 2001). We also conducted hand searches, general Internet searches, and a personal bibliographic database search. We included published and unpublished empirical studies in any language in which investigators searched the Web systematically for specific health information, evaluated the quality of Web sites or pages, and reported quantitative results. We screened 7830 citations and retrieved 170 potentially eligible full articles. A total of 79 distinct studies met the inclusion criteria, evaluating 5941 health Web sites and 1329 Web pages, and reporting 408 evaluation results for 86 different quality criteria. Two reviewers independently extracted study characteristics, medical domains, search strategies used, methods and criteria of quality assessment, results (percentage of sites or pages rated as inadequate pertaining to a quality criterion), and quality and rigor of study methods and reporting. Most frequently used quality criteria used include accuracy, completeness, readability, design, disclosures, and references provided. Fifty-five studies (70%) concluded that quality is a problem on the Web, 17 (22%) remained neutral, and 7 studies (9%) came to a positive conclusion. Positive studies scored significantly lower in search (P =.02) and evaluation (P =.04) methods. Due to differences in study methods and rigor, quality criteria, study population, and topic chosen, study results and conclusions on health-related Web sites vary widely. Operational definitions of quality criteria are needed.

                Author and article information

                J Med Internet Res
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                Gunther Eysenbach (Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, Toronto, Canada )
                Jan-Mar 2011
                31 January 2011
                : 13
                : 1
                22simpleDepartment of Internal Medicine simpleUniversity Hospitals Leuven LeuvenBelgium
                21simpleMedical School and Health Science Center simpleUniversity of Debrecen DebrecenHungary
                20simpleDepartment of Molecular Microbiology simpleSchool of Medicine simpleWashington University St. Louis, MOUnited States
                19simpleDivision of Gastroenterology simpleUniversity of Toronto Toronto, ONCanada
                18simpleSchool of Psychiatry simpleCollege of Medicine simpleUniversity of New South Wales Sydney, NSWAustralia
                17simpleDepartment of Psychiatry simpleBankstown Health Service Sydney, NSWAustralia
                16simpleDepartment of Acute Medicine simpleUniversity College Hospital LondonUnited Kingdom
                15simpleDepartment of Immunology simpleSchool of Medicine and National Jewish Health simpleUniversity of Colorado Denver, COUnited States
                14simpleDepartment of Cardiac Surgery simpleUniversity of Toronto Toronto, ONCanada
                13simpleMedical College simpleRush University Chicago, ILUnited States
                12simpleDepartment of Radiology simpleLeiden University Medical Center LeidenNetherlands
                11simpleDepartment of Dermatology simpleUniversity of Illinois Chicago, ILUnited States
                10simpleDivision of Cellular and Molecular Pathology simpleSchool of Medicine simpleUniversity of Queensland Brisbane, QldAustralia
                9simpleAnatomical Pathology Department simplePathology Queensland simpleRoyal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Brisbane, QldAustralia
                8simpleCollege of Medicine simpleUniversity of Vermont Burlington, VTUnited States
                7simpleMicrobiology simpleWalsall Manor Hospital WalsallUnited Kingdom
                6simpleDepartments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics simpleMassachusetts General Hospital simpleHarvard Medical School Boston, MAUnited States
                5simpleDepartment of Respiratory Medicine simplePoole General Hospital PooleUnited Kingdom
                4simpleDepartment of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology simpleUniversity of Toronto Toronto, ONCanada
                3simpleDepartment of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences simpleRobert Wood Johnson Medical School simpleUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJUnited States
                2simpleDepartment of Emergency Medicine simpleMoose Jaw Union Hospital Moose Jaw, SKCanada
                1simpleCollege of Medicine simpleUniversity of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SKCanada
                ©James M Heilman, Eckhard Kemmann, Michael Bonert, Anwesh Chatterjee, Brent Ragar, Graham M Beards, David J Iberri, Matthew Harvey, Brendan Thomas, Wouter Stomp, Michael F Martone, Daniel J Lodge, Andrea Vondracek, Jacob F de Wolff, Casimir Liber, Samir C Grover, Tim J Vickers, Bertalan Meskó, Michaël R Laurent. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 31.01.2011.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.



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