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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Online M.D.

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a study that suggests too much knowledge from the Internet could affect your health.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: where men fly as eagles and wizards fight for environmental justice—the mythical world of author T.A. Barron. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: Knowledge is power. But for millions of people who suffer from chronic health conditions, too much knowledge may prove to be harmful. A recent review of studies on internet health services has found that people who use the web to diagnose, treat, or simply research their illnesses are likely to end up in worse health than if they had simply heeded their doctors’ advice.

The authors of the review examined studies that measured the effectiveness of Interactive Health Communication Applications, or IHCAs. An IHCA is any computer-based information source combined with an interactive component such as a chat room or online support group. Not surprisingly, researchers found that these applications help increase people’s knowledge about health related matters and offers them a sense of social support. But they also discovered that IHCAs had little effect on motivating behavior change, and a notably negative impact on the outcome of web users’ health.

The authors speculate that as people actively seek more information about their condition, they become less concerned. As a consequence, they are less motivated to take necessary action toward treatment. Another possibility is that web users may find information that leads them to disregard or contradict their doctors’ advice. In either case, researchers say that further study is needed to better understand the adverse relationship between net surfers and their health. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: Ford, committed to developing cleaner forms of transportation that don’t compromise your needs or the environment. Ford vehicles dot com back slash environment. The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving Math and Science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The Kellogg Foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families, and their communities. On the web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” REVENGE OF THE SURF INSTRUMENTALS (MCA – 1995)]



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