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WWW.Huh?: Services Provide Health Information Web Sites

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2002 – Medical professionals agree that a well-informed patient is a better patient. Patients who learn about wellness and their own conditions, the reasoning goes, are better able to participate in their treatment and follow their doctors' instructions.

The medical departments of each of the military services have worked hard in recent years to provide their beneficiaries with comprehensive medical information on the Internet.

The Navy operates two comprehensive health and wellness information Web sites. The Virtual Naval Hospital, www.vnh.org/Patients.html, includes links to hundreds of articles on dozens of topics.

Individuals can get information on such subjects as back and musculoskeletal injuries, cholesterol, eye and hearing protection, dental care, and pregnancy and family planning. Wellness information on tobacco-use cessation, alcohol- abuse and domestic-violence prevention, nutrition, and personal hygiene can also be found on this site.

The Navy site's psychological wellness section includes information on stress management, to include combat stress and suicide prevention. The Navy also included a separate section dedicated to women's health issues, such as breast cancer, mammography, Pap tests and osteoporosis.

The Navy's Lifelines Web site also includes health-related information at www.LIFELines.navy.mil/services/medical/index.asp. The site includes links to practical information such as when to call the pediatrician about a child's illness, how to find online information on military medical treatment facilities, and how to update Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System information.

The Army runs a site called Hooah 4 Health at www.hooah4health.com. The site, maintained by the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, addresses Army force health protection and readiness requirements, particularly for the reserve components.

"Citizen-soldiers juggle many different balls every day, but they cannot afford to drop the one ball that allows them to live a healthier, less stressful life," the site's introductory page says.

The site is divided into sections on body, mind and spirit resources. A dropdown menu of body resources, for instance, leads to such topics as blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, exercise injury prevention and weight loss. The site contains information on deployment health and environmental factors that can impact health. It also includes links to calculators that can help determine Army physical fitness test scores, body mass indexes and target heart rates.

The mind resources section includes information on dealing with stress, suicide prevention, sleep and eating disorders, and more. There's a "Mind Mirror Quiz" that can help pinpoint whether stress is a problem -- and then leads a visitor through some coping techniques.

The experts who put together Hooah 4 Health maintain that spiritual fitness is an important facet of health and wellness. Links in this area include the Goldberg Well- Being Scale, a quiz designed to take one's "spiritual pulse," and an interactive quiz that helps determine one's resiliency and whether it's derived from a sense of spirituality.

The Air Force maintains a general information site called Crossroads that has a health information section at www.afcrossroads.com/medical/index.cfm.

A link to the Center of Excellence for Medical Multimedia, http://cemm.org/index.asp, is billed as a resource for Air Force medical professionals, but it's useful for patients as well. Click on the "products" button along the left side, for instance, and links appear to interactive single- topic Web sites that include in-depth looks at pregnancy and childbirth, tonsil and adenoid surgery, arthroscopic knee surgery, and colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.

One link, "Robby Goes to the Hospital," is an interactive site for kids that follows a little bear named Robby Beanblossom on his trip to the hospital. The site follows Robby from the time he enters the lobby with his mom until he goes home after an operation. Along the way, he learns all about the laboratory, blood tests, the operating room and anesthesia.

A similar link, "Virtual Medical Center," provides much the same information in a format for adults.

Experts caution that medical information found on the Internet is not always accurate and is no substitute for a doctor's care. Information gleaned from reliable sources and sites, however, can be helpful in allaying patients' fears and help them make informed decisions about their own health care, they advised.

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