Don't trust 'Dr Google'

01:09, Aug 18 2014
health books
WISE WORDS: Library Manager Glennis Coote, left, and Health Promotion Facilitator Glenis Bell with books that have been carefully selected on a variety of health topics.

Even the most level-headed patient can be tempted to consult "Dr Google" by typing their symptoms into a search engine online, but a new initiative from Nelson Bays Primary Health and the Richmond Library aims to connect people with more reliable sources.

"We all know that not all information found on ‘Dr Google' is accurate, up-to-date or relevant to people living in New Zealand," said NBPH health promotions facilitator Glenis Bell. "So that's where BeWell Books comes in."

BeWell Books is a selection of books at the Richmond Library which have been vetted by NBPH staff to make sure they provide easy-to-read and appropriate health information. Health providers can now issue a voucher to clients who may benefit from reading more about their health condition which, when redeemed at the library, gives them access to the BeWell Books shelf.

Bell said health providers tried to be helpful by giving their patients a lot of information about their health conditions, but often the information was "jumbled with terminology". She spoke of a theoretical scenario where a person's GP might diagnose them with type two diabetes.

"The doctor is then going to give you all kinds of information but your mind is stuck in, ‘My god, I've got diabetes,' so you don't really hear anything else he says."

Bell said patients typically went home after such an appointment and researched their condition on the internet, only to find all sorts of alarming information.


Tasman District Council libraries manager Glennis Coote said library staff had noticed that some people were shy about asking for help with health information. The vouchers come printed with boxes for health topics which are ticked by the provider, so that clients can simply present them to the librarian.

Coote said other books-on-prescription schemes focused on mental health, and to her knowledge, hers was the first to include other subjects.

NBPH chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said he found the scheme "really attractive".

"You can be confident that the team at Nelson Bays Primary Health have read all the books included in this initiative and have given them the tick of approval."

The Nelson Mail