And the nominees for best health Web site are . . .
That's right. It's time again for the Webby Awards, the Internet's version of the Oscars. Now in their fourth year, the Webbys (http://www.webbyawards.com) are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and include five nominees in 27 categories, ranging from health to fashion to just plain weird. The nominees were chosen from Web surfer submissions by a 350-member panel, whose celebrity judges include musician David Bowie, former U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, and James Clark, chairman of the board of online health giant Healtheon/WebMD and the founder of Netscape Communications. This panel will also cast the final votes for the Webby Awards.
But members of the online public will get to have their say as well--by voting in the People's Voice Awards, which will be announced live during the Webby Webcast.
Voting is simple. Just enter your e-mail address, select a user name and password, reply to the confirmation e-mail and click on your favorite site. There's even an option to register for a drawing for an Audi Roadster. (I skipped this part because I didn't want to provide all the required information about myself.) Unless you want to receive a newsletter from the academy as well as e-mail from its sponsors, uncheck those boxes on the registration page. Didn't find your favorite site in the list of nominations? Just write it in. You can also provide your own review of the nominated sites. But cast your vote soon--the May 11 ceremony is just around the corner.
The health site contenders (in alphabetical order):
* Adam.com (http://adam.com): Self-described as the "leading online provider of health, medical and wellness information," Adam.com offers a wide range of articles. Other than Sex & Relationships and Outdoor Health though, the categories are standard fare for mainstream consumer health sites these days. Adam.com also claims to have one of the fastest search engines on the Web. Sure enough, when I searched for "human growth hormone," the results came back in only a few seconds; but only six matches were found. Take note, however, Adam as we see it today will cease to exist. Instead, its leaders will focus on selling its content and services to other sites, rather than have you come to them. Check out the site before it's too late.
* InteliHealth (http://www.intelihealth.com): The Webby winner last year, InteliHealth is one of the most highly trafficked consumer health care sites and has helped set the industry standard. It offers news, e-mail notifications, health assessments, forums and more. What originally set this site apart was its relationship with Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. Hopkins' physicians reviewed, or vetted, all the content on the site. That relationship has ended, but a spokesman for the site says InteliHealth is actively pursuing a similar relationship with an as-yet-unnamed but equally respected medical institution.
* OnHealth (http://www.onhealth.com): One of the top 10 consumer health sites, according to PC Data and other Web traffic measurement companies, OnHealth was nominated for a Webby last year. The site made news recently when it was acquired by Healtheon/WebMD, which seems to be making acquisitions on a weekly basis. OnHealth features all the requisite topics plus a "daily dose" of humor. (On the day I visited the site, comedian Ellen DeGeneres was quoted: "You know, I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happy with buns of cinnamon.") When I tested the search engine to compare it to Adam's, OnHealth returned 200 results, including a number of extremely useful articles, in the same brief time it took Adam to come up with only six.
* Respect Your Mind: Protect Your Body (http://www.respectprotect.com): And now for something completely different. This is not your typical health-care Web site, not even a typical edgy one. Brought to you by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the site provides information on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. It's young, it's bright, it's jazzy, but, unfortunately, it's slow to load. Still, with the assistance of radio ads, situational quizzes ("What would you do if . . .?"), facts on STDs ("The Scoop"), and "Whazzup," a message board supported by a panel of "teen experts," this site could make a major contribution toward helping kids abstain from sex or avoid risky, unprotected encounters.
* Thrive Online (http://thriveonline.com): ThriveOnline is an all-purpose consumer health site, but with an attitude. It touts "the new health," and defines a healthy lifestyle as something that is "fun, not dreary or intimidating." It's a refreshing change of pace--content is lighter and hipper than on the other general health sites, and it includes sections on nutrition, sexuality and, my favorite, serenity (stress management and wellness). Also nominated last year for a Webby, ThriveOnline was founded in 1996 by America Online and Time Inc. It's now owned by Oxygen Media, the "first online and on-air network for women, by women." I plan to keep watching.
Who's got the best health site? It's your click.
Marla Bolotsky is managing editor and director of online information for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your Health Online runs every the first and third Mondays of every month.