Background and Aim: Since health information websites in the Internet is almost the first and the most used source of information for public. It is therefore necessary to comprehensively evaluate websites which provide health information for the public.
Objective: The research aimed to investigate the quality of Farsi health information websites comparing the international pairs provided with recognized quality standards including those from the Medical Library Association of America (MLA).
Materials and Methods: Checklists of the British Medical Association (BMA), MLA, Health On the Net Foundation Code (HONcode) principles, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W3C) were use as the research tools. The sample of websites included the 10 top health websites in English rated by MLA and nine Iranian health information websites in Persian (Farsi).
Results: Iranian websites did not obtain desirable scores against the quality standards of health information websites (BMA, HONcode, W3C, and MLA) in terms of scope, accuracy, and quality, authorship and authority, attribution and justifiability, bias -free observation, good design, code of conduct/standards. An analytical comparison of health information websites based on their ownership showed that the private sector organisation websites were better than the governmental Iranian websites in terms of observing the standards as well as comprehensiveness. Strengths of the Iranian websites included information privacy, transparency, consumer involvement, and ease of understanding. No considerable differences were observed between the private sector organisation and governmental websites on other criteria.
Conclusions: Results of this research highlighted the need to determine standards and improve the quality control of public health information websites in Iran, by an organization or institute such as the Iranian Medical Library Association. These findings will create the basis of recommendations for developing a comprehensive, consistent, reliable, up-to-date, and high-quality website, which can account for the needs of health consumers. Provision of such a website will contribute to improvements in understanding of diseases, effective self-care and self-management and appropriate lifestyle advice. In turn, this may help to reduce unnecessary referrals to health centers, hospitalization and unnecessary taking of medicine, leading to better health outcomes for the population.
Collection Development and Management Commons, Health and Medical Administration Commons, Health and Physical Education Commons, Information Literacy Commons, Public Health Education and Promotion Commons