According to the Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative, “Canadians use the Internet most often to find health information.” Knowing which sites are credible sources of information can help you find the best local resources. The Canadian Collabroative Mental Health Initiavite published the Working together towards recovery tool kit for cunsumers, families and caregivers which offers the following guidelines provided by the Canadian Health Network to help readers identify credible online resources.
- The host organization should be well known and reputable
- The author should be clearly identified along with their credentials
- While experiential information can be very valuable, medical information and professionally sourced information is verified, reviewed and updated according to established standards and guidelines
- Not only should the site have Canadian content, it should also have provincial content – terms, rules and regulations regarding the use of animal-assisted therapy can vary by province
- While opinion based information may be helpful in certain situations, verified research and information from a well known organization in the field of animal-assisted therapy is reviewed and updated according to established standards and guideline.
Timeliness of information:
- While a number of credible resources are ‘evergreen’ the site should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated
- Inactive links are a sure sign that the information is outdated
- If the reader is required to make a purchase or ‘donation’ prior to accessing the information, this should be clearly identified as soon as possible and valuable information should be made available without purchase.
- The site should be free of bias. In other words, both sides of the story should be made available so the reader can make an informed decision
- Are the site sponsors clearly identified and unbiased? Pharmaceutical sponsors do provide helpful information regarding pharmaceutical treatment options but are trying to sell their own product. The same applies to organizations that offer certification and service vests without proof of proper qualification of the animal and handler.
- Be informed of your privacy rights before you provide any registration information on sites that require the reader to register in order to view or receive information.
Sorting through the information available on the internet can be an overwhelming task. The same resource can be sited as credible on one site and fraudulent on another. Knowing how to sort out the credible sources from those that are not can save you a lot of time, money and hassle as you gather the information that you need to make an informed decision.