I came across an article the other day discussing the ethics behind health bloggers; in particular, the dangers of non- experts giving advice and writing beyond their level of expertise. As a family lifestyle blogger, I have a health and wellbeing section, and cover this topic fairly regularly.
It got me thinking, should bloggers shy away from covering certain topics? Perhaps just leave it all to the professionals? I think it largely depends on the context it is written. Of course, nobody should be claiming to be an expert if they are not, or offer advice that could potentially be harmful. I guess some subjects are therefore by nature more controversial than others. But I do think well written and responsible health blogs have their place, and can be a very valuable source of information.
For example, I often see on parenting groups new parents asking for health advice for their babies. Sometimes they are questions about rashes or temperatures; the kind of thing that it would be best to look up on NHS Direct or go to a pharmacy to establish whether it is safe to treat at home. But other things are questions that can easily be answered by other, more experienced, parents. Sensible, typical suggestions for dealing with a teething baby for example. Or little first aid tips like how to safely and easily remove a splinter. But if in any doubt whatsoever, it is always best to seek medical advice. Likewise, same applies when it comes to any other advice or health conditions for anyone of any age.
It is comparitable to how people might ask friends or family for advice vs going to their GP. Of course, we don’t want to waste valuable NHS resources and professional’s time with things that are clearly fine to research ourselves or safe to treat at home, but if there is any doubt whatsoever then seek advice. Rule of thumb, in my opinion, is to treat blog posts and articles more like you are chatting to your friends rather than speaking to an expert!
Personally, whilst I try to ensure that my health posts are informative, of course I absolutely do not claim to be an expert and I make sure that I signpost people on where to go for further information, advice and support. I offer ‘common sense’ practical suggestions about living a healthy lifestyle and ideas to support wellbeing, but I am careful not to cross the line into specialist advice. It is important however to reflect on this sometimes though and make sure I am consciously taking responsibility for the impact of the words I write on my readers.
Remember: if in doubt, seek expert medical advice.
Here are some essential sources for information and advice:
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.