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New tool to assess quality of health websites reveals inadequacies

websitequalityBehavioural Scientist and NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow with the FFCMH, Dr Camille Short, Prof Deborah Turnbull and students Charlotte Gelder, Megan McIntosh and Lena Binnewerg have recently published their research “Examining the accessibility of high quality physical activity behaviour change support freely available online for men with prostate cancer” in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.  This was quite a revealing study highlighting the lack of evidence-based and behaviour change-based websites supporting healthy lifestyles for men with prostate cancer through physical activity.  For this study an e-health website quality auditing tool was developed, which in itself will be a useful tool for e-health researchers and website developers. The auditing tool was used to evaluate websites that men with prostate cancer were likely to land on when searching the Internet for information on physical activity.

The study found that few websites incorporated essential behaviour change techniques, like goal setting and ongoing support, and cancer organisations and government websites were too scientific in content and lacked practical information and support to genuinely assist men to change their physical activity habits. Dr Short stated that navigating blindly through the rubbish all alone does not seem like an optimal supportive care system for people living with cancer – and it needs an overhaul so that the real opportunities that e-health offer are realised for individuals and the health budget.

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