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Estimating the Proportion of Health-Related Websites Disclosing Information That Can Be Used to Assess Their Quality

Final Report - May 30, 2006


Findings (continued)


Summary Estimates of Compliance (continued)

Content

Compliance with the Content criterion requires disclosure on three distinct elements: (1) differentiation of advertising content from non-advertising content on the website (Identify Advertising), (2) policy statements describing editorial policy or oversight of health content (Editorial Policy), and (3) authorship of health content on each of three randomly selected pages of health content on the website (Authorship).

As Table 5 shows, nearly three-fourths of health websites Identify Advertising, but very few (about 5 percent) clearly disclose their Editorial Policy. However, a significantly higher estimated proportion of frequently visited websites (19 percent) disclose Editorial Policy compared with the remainder websites (4 percent).

Compliance with Authorship is complicated by the fact that, unlike the first two disclosure elements, it is required on three items of randomly selected health content. Slightly over 11 percent of all websites consistently identify Authorship on items of health content, although a statistically significantly higher proportion (31 percent) of the sites most frequently visited do so compared with the remainder websites (10 percent).

In total, though, we found only two websites in our sample of 102 to be fully compliant with the Content criterion, which suggests that health websites in general do not adhere to this criterion as we defined it. However, the sites most frequently visited, on average, disclosed significantly more elements related to this criterion (a mean of 2.6 out of 5) compared to the remainder websites (with a mean of 1.7). Figure 5 shows the frequency of compliance with the elements of the Content criterion for each of the strata, by the number elements in compliance.

Figure 5. Compliance of Frequently Visited Sites and Remainder Sites with Content Criterion, by Number of Disclosure Elements in Compliance
Figure 5

View text version of Figure 5.

Privacy

Compliance with the Privacy criterion requires disclosure of two elements: (1) a statement of privacy policy (Privacy Policy), and (2) a statement regarding protection of personal information (Personal Information). About three-fourths of all websites are estimated to be fully compliant with this criterion. Once again, a significantly higher proportion of most-frequently-visited websites (92 percent) are in compliance compared with the remainder websites (74 percent). Significant differences are also observed for the two disclosure elements associated with this criterion (Table 5) and for the mean number of elements in compliance.

Figure 6 shows the baseline estimates of compliance with the elements of the Privacy criterion for each of the strata, by the number of elements in compliance.

Figure 6. Compliance of Frequently Visited Sites and Remainder Sites with Privacy Criterion, by Number of Disclosure Elements in Compliance
Figure 6

View text version of Figure 6.


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