- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2000

Health sites continue to transform themselves into megaportals endorsed by trusted names in the medical world as competition for visitors heats up. Within these gargantuan cyberstops, visitors can get answers to questions about any ailment or concern while having the option to buy everything from vitamins to self-help books.
One such site, HealthCentral.com, has spent four years bringing this strategy to fruition through a sensory overload of news and advice meant to keep humans of sound mind and body.


Site address: www.healthcentral.com


Founded by nationally syndicated radio, newspaper and television physician Dr. Dean Edell in 1996, HealthCentral.com is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Emeryville, Calif.

Creator quotable:

"There is a tremendous amount of health information that the public has a right to know about but which has been difficult to access from a single source," Dr. Edell says. "Until now, broadcast media hasn't enabled consumers to dig deep into the details, which are vital in order to manage the health of one's family and oneself. HealthCentral.com's value lies in its extremely consumer-friendly site, depth of original content and fresh perspectives on health issues."

Word from the Webwise:

Dr. Edell has tried to corner the electronic health media market by oversaturating visitors with a wide range of informative content. I had no idea where to start when confronted with the colorful images and tempting articles on the opening page of HealthCentral.com. Four columns of icons, drop-down menus and links offer entry points to the site.
To shed some light on the site's range of credibility, visit the "Best Doctors" section. Here, an eclectic mix of authorities write on weekly topics. During my review, Dr. James Maguire, clinical director of the infectious disease division for Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote about malaria, while oncologist Dr. Tom Anderson looked at testicular cancer.
Or try the "Columnists" section for more in-depth pieces. In one piece, in-house medical librarian Rochelle Perrine Schmalz uses her 20 years of experience to report on the benefits and disorders of sleep. Besides the detailed article, a thorough bibliography is included with a list of books and links to information in the site and other Internet sites.
Other experts found on the site include health care futurist Joe Flower and his warnings of a coming plague; alternative health care pioneers Joe and Terry Graedon and their "People's Pharmacy" section of advice, encyclopedias on pharmaceuticals and herbal remedies; and health and fitness gurus Christina and Covert Bailey with help on staying in tip-top shape through diet and exercise.
For more general information, HealthCentral.com uses two huge areas to enlighten. "Topic Centers" and "Library" use plenty of links and drop-down menus to explore everything from menopause to health insurance to the benefits of garlic.
A final must-see stop is "My Health Page." Registered visitors receive a free e-mailed newsletter, a personal news page, personal health file to store information, a specific health profile and miniprofiles.
Some folks might be a bit reluctant to give a health site that has advertisers access to personal information. HealthCentral.com provides its privacy policy on line, so read it carefully to make an informed decision.
For those who do register, take full advantage of the "Health Profiles," which can reveal problems or tendencies in the user's health regimen through a series of multiple choice questions on a variety of topics: "Exercise and Fitness," "Stress Management," "Alcohol and Substance Abuse," "Sexual Health," and "Lifeview."

Ease of use:

Make no mistake about it, HealthCentral.com gives visitors lots of great information, but it is also a very commercial business attempting to stay financial solvent while other sites struggle. That translates into lots of annoying banner advertisements, lots of experts selling their books and tapes and an abundance of storefronts to purchase an incredible amount of junk.

Don't miss:

Visitors looking for some fascinating views of the human anatomy need only look to "Cool Tools" for a series of non-explicit photographs featuring cadavers in a variety of poses. Yes, this Swiss art exhibit may not be for everyone, but it is still very interesting. Additionally, this section holds various calculators and on-line quizzes to learn about life expectancy, how to move one eye while keeping the other still and a memory test.

Information grade: A

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message to [email protected]

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