|Virtually wholesome||Oct. 27, 2003|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|When it comes to the best women's health resources in the world, nothing beats what we've got right here in our own backyard. Just take a peak at womenshealthmatters.ca. The Web site and its French sister version, femmesensante.ca, is already viewed by 1.3 million visitors annually, and has been named one of the best in North America. The reason? Womenshealthmatters.ca is a virtual meeting place where women of any age can find reliable, current information about their health needs from experts at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre and the Centre for Research in Women's Health.
Now, thanks to a substantial cash input from the Ontario Women's Health Council (OWHC), the bilingual site has been mightily expanded to offer a searchable database of women's health resources. At the recent launch of the project, OWHC Chair Jane Pepino remarked as to how the expansion will help the province's women "to access useful and reliable resources that will help them make informed healthcare decisions." "Reliable" has not been a word associated with Net health research - but this site is an exception.
This database contains descriptions of books and periodicals, audiovisual and multimedia materials and links to other websites. In addition to providing reliable and accurate women's health information, it now provides support to women who are coping with a specific illness or condition - be it endometriosis or substance abuse. Its intent is to also help women to better navigate the Canadian health-care system.
It's easy-peasy to access and yields a wealth of information on everything from arthritis to foot care to urinary problems. Here's one simple example: I typed ovarian cancer into the search field. Up came 16 results, each one a reliable resource for furthering my knowledge about this difficult disease. From NOCA (the National Ovarian Cancer Association) to the Ovarian Cancer Research Notebook to Wellspring, a cancer support group, I then had the option of entering each of their portals to learn more about the disease itself, the latest research on diagnosis and treatment, and where to find peer-to-peer cancer support.
This simple act of typing in one word gave me more information than any doctor could possibly give me in a half-hour or hour-long session - though of course information can't diagnose, treat or cure anything. Information of the sort that I accessed is not here to undermine any doctor's expertise but to fill in the canvas upon which an initial diagnosis and treatment path is sketched.
Statistics indicate that a majority of Canadians have used the Net at one time or another to search for health information. The beauty of womenshealthmatters.ca is that the site's writers and reviewers are listed, as is the editorial advisory committee. This means you have some of the country's top experts, such as geneticist Dr. Steven Narod and oncologist Dr. Maureen Trudeau, for example, reviewing the sections on breast cancer. If you've ever wondered about the experts behind the news, you'll find online interviews here, too, such as the ones with body image expert Carla Rice, or neurologist Dr. Liesly Lee discussing MS.
The Web site is creative in its approach. There are plenty of quizzes (find out what you know about breast cancer risk), a free online support community called Le Club, and access to virtual health centres such as cervical cancer where risk factors, prevention, research, diagnosis and treatment are outlined and links are available to other community resources. Information on this cancer was reviewed first-hand by experts Dr. Alan Covens and Dr. Nancy Durand.
Last month, the release of The Women's Health Surveillance Report (a national document in which more than 60 health experts from across the country looked at issues ranging from mental health and substance abuse to chronic disease and post-menopausal health) indicated that though Canadian women live longer than men, both younger and older women are actually at higher risk than men for many serious health problems.
You can read the news release of the report and actually download the whole of it through a link on the womenshealthmatters.ca website. But even more important is what you can do to lower your risk of many of the various health problems mentioned. Access to reliable information on women's health has always been an important step to helping consumers be proactive. I think that this Web site goes a long way towards illustrating that knowledge is not only power, but also may be instrumental to promoting actual personal change. Healthier women is the key: Take a look!
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