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Librarians Create User-Friendly Online Medical Database - 2004-07-14

The Internet has turned out to be one of the best ways to stay current with the latest medical information. But not all websites are equal when it comes to providing high-quality, up-to-date health information. VOA's Art Chimes introduces us to one of the best medical sites.

MedlinePlus is run by the world's largest medical library, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the library's experts ensure that this website contains the most reliable health information for consumers.

Eve-Marie LaCroix heads the Public Services Division at the Library of Medicine.

"MedlinePlus is really trying to provide people with information that they can trust," she says. "The information has to be information that's based on research and comes from a very credible organization."

The MedlinePlus website is an outgrowth of Medline, the database for biomedical journals intended for doctors and researchers, but Ms. LaCroix says a lot of users were not professionals.

"Thirty percent of the people who were searching Medline were members of the general public, and that was clearly not who could possibly get anything out of the Medline database," she adds.

The result was MedlinePlus - medical information written and presented so ordinary people who haven't gone to medical school can understand it. Many topics are supplemented with graphics and interactive presentations, and virtually the entire site is available in Spanish as well as English. And many topics of interest to older adults can be accessed through a computer-synthesized voice.

"We very quickly found that this was going to be well-accepted. It's clear that the general public has a real thirst for health information," notes Ms. LaCroix. "MedlinePlus now has 670 health topics that will address everything from diabetes to, you know, what a colonoscopy is."