As a freelance writer who specializes in natural health, I make extensive use of public resources such as the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus online encyclopedia. For years, the Medline Plus “Supplements” encyclopedia has been my number-one source of credible information regarding nutritional supplements and medicinal herbs.
In the past, I have viewed the Medline Plus Supplements online encyclopeida as a balanced source of credible, scientific information. Before the September 2010 redesign of the Drugs and Supplements pages, the program offered valuable and detailed information about herbs and their use in modern medicine. Its information was accurate and truly scientific; it neither favored nor overtly disapproved of botanical medicine. I was glad to have a credible source of information to which I could refer my readers and clients.
Following an aesthetic redesign in June 2010, the Medline Plus Supplements encyclopedia underwent another drastic change. Instead of providing clear, detailed information, Medline Plus has now dumbed-down its Supplement encyclopedia, presumably to make it more accessible to laymen.
Although I want Medline Plus to be accessible and legible, I cringe when I see a formerly scientific webpage spewing phrases such as, emphasis theirs: “There are some BIG safety concerns about kava.”
I like to see casual diction and occasional all-caps on my friends’ Facebook pages and Twitter updates. However, these unprofessional statements do not belong on a scientific encyclopedia.
The same page used to discuss the similarities between kava and prescription benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Where the NIH’s Medline Plus Supplements page once explained the controversies surrounding kava-kava– and the fact that practitioners disagree about whether it can be used safely– it now gives the blanket warning, “Don’t use it.”
The internet doesn’t need to be dumbed down anymore. As online encylopedias such as Medline Plus become low-brow pockets of layman’s advice, full-time freelancers like myself lose our access to credible information– and so do self-educating consumers seeking detailed, unbiased information.