Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HealthCentral Preys on Cancer Patients

According to their about page, the Health Central Network offers "timely, in-depth, trusted medical information, personalized tools and resources". This site offers insight from Dr. Dean Edell - "America's Doctor".

And at first glance it seems loaded with quality information from the Doctor himself. Edell lends authority to the web page. His name also doubles as the site's header.

A person unfamiliar with the web who stumbles upon Health Central - say by typing in the words "just diagnosed with cancer" in Google - for which Health Central ranks #2 - might mistake the contents of the page as factual and unbiased, and representative of Dr. Edell's opinions. The site is optimized for search engines - it ranks well and has a high readership according to Alexa.

While Health Central does differentiate content that is paid for from content that is not (although visually, sponsored content has a much stronger impact), the site makes claims related to the quality of their sponsored links. The worst offender is a section entitled, "What's Hot"

What's Hot??

According to Health Central: Chronic Pain, Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Vascular Disease.

Clicking on one of these links brings you to a page with a sponsored solution. eg: Medtronic, for pain relief, or Remicade, a drug for arthritis.

Perhaps when they say, "Trusted and reliable" they are referring to the amount of traffic they regularly send their sponsors. Camouflaging advertising as editorial and making statements related to the quality of the advertiser is extremely misleading and potentially dangerous - especially among sick patients who are vulnerable.


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