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Health Econ Policy Law ; 18(2): 204-217, 2023 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2221734


Health misinformation, most visibly following the COVID-19 infodemic, is an urgent threat that hinders the success of public health policies. It likely contributed, and will continue to contribute, to avoidable deaths. Policymakers around the world are being pushed to tackle this problem. Legislative acts have been rolled out or announced in many countries and at the European Union level. The goal of this paper is not to review particular legislative initiatives, or to assess the impact and efficacy of measures implemented by digital intermediaries, but to reflect on the high constitutional and ethical stakes involved in tackling health misinformation through speech regulation. Our findings suggest that solutions focused on regulating speech are likely to encounter significant constraints, as policymakers grasp with the limitations imposed by freedom of expression and ethical considerations. Solutions focused on empowering individuals - such as media literacy initiatives, fact-checking or credibility labels - are one way to avoid such hurdles.

COVID-19 , Humans , European Union , Public Policy , Communication , Freedom
JMIR Form Res ; 6(2): e32360, 2022 Feb 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1674184


BACKGROUND: The internet has become a major source of health information, especially for adolescents and young adults. Unfortunately, inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated health information is widespread on the web. Often adolescents and young adults turn to authoritative websites such as the student health center (SHC) website of the university they attend to obtain reliable health information. Although most on-campus SHC clinics comply with the American College Health Association standards, their websites are not subject to any standards or code of conduct. In the absence of quality standards or guidelines, monitoring and compliance processes do not exist for SHC websites. Thus, there is no oversight of the health information published on SHC websites by any central governing body. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to develop, describe, and validate an open-source software that can effectively and efficiently assess the quality of health information on SHC websites in the United States. METHODS: Our cross-functional team designed and developed an open-source software, QMOHI (Quantitative Measures of Online Health Information), that assesses information quality for a specified health topic from all SHC websites belonging to a predetermined list of universities. The tool was designed to compute 8 different quality metrics that quantify various aspects of information quality based on the retrieved text. We conducted and reported results from 3 experiments that assessed the QMOHI tool in terms of its scalability, generalizability in health topics, and robustness to changes in universities' website structure. RESULTS: Empirical evaluation has shown the QMOHI tool to be highly scalable and substantially more efficient than manually assessing web-based information quality. The tool's runtime was dominated by network-related tasks (98%), whereas the metric computations take <2 seconds. QMOHI demonstrated topical versatility, evaluating SHC website information quality for four disparate and broad health topics (COVID, cancer, long-acting reversible contraceptives, and condoms) and two narrowly focused topics (hormonal intrauterine device and copper intrauterine device). The tool exhibited robustness, correctly measuring information quality despite changes in SHC website structure. QMOHI can support longitudinal studies by being robust to such website changes. CONCLUSIONS: QMOHI allows public health researchers and practitioners to conduct large-scale studies of SHC websites that were previously too time- and cost-intensive. The capability to generalize broadly or focus narrowly allows a wide range of applications of QMOHI, allowing researchers to study both mainstream and underexplored health topics. QMOHI's ability to robustly analyze SHC websites periodically promotes longitudinal investigations and allows QMOHI to be used as a monitoring tool. QMOHI serves as a launching pad for our future work that aims to develop a broadly applicable public health tool for web-based health information studies with potential applications far beyond SHC websites.

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care ; 26(4): 343-348, 2021 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1218871


OBJECTIVES: The increasing availability of health information online combined with reduced access to health care providers due to the coronavirus pandemic means that more people are using the internet for health information. However, with no standardised regulation of the internet, the population is vulnerable to misinformation regarding important health information. This review aimed to evaluate the quality and readability of the online information available on emergency contraception (EC) options. STUDY DESIGN: In this descriptive study, a Google search was performed using the term 'emergency contraception options' on 13 April 2020 yielding 232 results. Seventy-one results were excluded (34 inaccessible, 37 contained no medical information). The remaining 161 results were categorised by typology and assessed for credibility (JAMA criteria and HONcode), reliability (DISCERN tool) and readability (Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook). RESULTS: Of all webpages evaluated, the most common typology was governmental. Credibility of web pages was poor (average JAMA score of 1.47 out of 4). Only 10.6% of webpages were HONcode certified. The most common DISCERN category was Fair (29.81%), closely followed by Poor (27.95%) reliability. On average, readability levels were above the recommended grade level for health information. The intrauterine device was discussed least frequently (86.96%) of all the EC options. CONCLUSION: Online information was of low credibility, reliability and written above the recommended reading level. Clinicians should be aware of the poor quality of online information on EC options, and actively educate patients on what makes a source credible.

Consumer Health Information , Contraception, Postcoital/methods , Online Systems/standards , Reproductive Health/standards , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/psychology , Consumer Health Information/methods , Consumer Health Information/standards , Data Accuracy , Humans , SARS-CoV-2