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Recently ML earned an HON (Health on the Net Foundation) seal, or “widget” in blog parlance. You may be wondering, what’s that about? There’s some interesting Web history, at least for med-blog types:

The foundation emerged in September, 1995, when 60 early health IT leaders convened in Geneva, Switzerland for a conference, “The Use of the Internet and World-Wide Web for Telematics in Healthcare.” The pioneering group was concerned about the ever-growing numbers of citizens surfing the Internet for health-related information. Participants included U.S. heart surgeon Dr Michael DeBakey and representatives from health and technology agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Telecommunication Union, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the European Commission and the National Library of Medicine.

Ultimately an HON Council identified and developed eight principles for medical website integrity. The goal was to establish a way by which casual Web-users could assess a site’s validity.

The HON foundation seems to be quite active. Its website reported, on October 21, 2010, that in the past 30 days their credentialing team certified 64 sites and inspected some 292 in an annual renewal process. Among other new HON designees are sites far in base and scope: the German Firsttrimester Blog, the Tunisian La Communauté des Etudiants du Secteur Médical en Ligne, and website of the Pan-American Health Organization in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries.

Still, it’s unclear if most or even many internet health searchers notice the HONcode emblem. From my own, limited observations of friends, other patients, colleagues, and students, it seems that for many people who search on-line for health information, they’re just poking around until they find a site that suits their query, or that meets their expectation of how a medical site should appear. And Wikipedia, through its ever-editing process, seems to get a little better each day.

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