Overview: As its name suggests, this health site is geared toward older people who are interested in preserving their health and coping with the inevitable ailments of advancing age. The site is backed by the Novartis Foundation for Gerontology, an arm of Swiss-based Novartis, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical and consumer health companies. The site provides a basic overview of such medical issues as heart disease, depression, Alzheimer's, diabetes and incontinence. Healthandage.com is attracting a good amount of attention, ranking sixth in market share among consumer health care Web sites in a recent survey by PC Data Online.
What Works: Nothing flashy or especially creative here. This is mostly solid information that is edited and reviewed by medical professionals. Look up the topic of Alzheimer's disease, for example, and the site gives you a brief overview, risk factors, the basics of how to prevent and cope with the illness and additional resources, such as support groups and research organizations. Unusual features befitting the site's European origins are that health news articles are offered in French, German and Spanish as well as English and that resource lists are international in scope. Besides the consumer area, there is information tailored to physicians and other health professionals.
What Doesn't: Skeptics might worry about the mixed motives of a "consumer" health site run by a big pharmaceutical company that profits--or hopes to--from selling drugs to treat many of the diseases on which this site focuses. Though the majority of the information on the site is culled from credible medical journals, newspapers and other independent sources, the possibility exists that the company could view the site as a marketing tool. That's not necessarily bad if the intent is made clear to the public. But it's an issue worth bearing in mind as you visit this site.
There were a few things that seemed more promotional than evenhanded for a consumer site. The site's "headline news" section contained a press release about an estrogen patch developed by Novartis.
Also, one of the site's newest areas is ibsandhealth.com, about the condition known as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. (It included a sweepstakes giveaway of 100 copies of a book about IBS.) Perhaps it's just coincidence that Novartis received preliminary approval last June from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel for a treatment for IBS in women.