New Kids' Health Site Offers Advice From Pediatricians

But healthychildren.org falls short when parents want to dig deep into complex issues like autism.

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Seeking advice from pediatricians on your kids’ health just got easier. The American Academy of Pediatrics today launched a website, healthychildren.org, in an effort to bring “pediatrician-approved health information” to the often-confusing world of online medical advice.

The group is already online at aap.org, but until now that site has mashed together health information aimed at parents with professional information for its 60,000 members. It’s nice to know that the AAP supports health reform, but not when what I really need to know is whether it’s OK to alternate Tylenol and Motrin to bring down a fever. The new site focuses on parents’ questions on often-encountered issues like finicky eating, toilet training, and ADHD. It includes a section where you can ask questions of a team of doctors.

Another plus: Information on specific topics is arranged chronologically so that the newest thinking on fast-changing health topics like vitamin D supplements for kids comes up first.

But the site isn't perfect. The search engine is wimpy. Why would a pediatrician-sponsored site come up with zero results in a search for “vaccination schedule”? And when I searched for “autism treatment,” I found not the AAP’s comprehensive 2007 clinical report on autism treatments, "Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders," but a one-paragraph excerpt from the AAP book Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. If this site is destined to be the definitive resource on children’s health, it’s got to do better than that. Typing in “autism treatment” on the main aap.org site revealed a wealth of information, including research papers on chelation therapy, the hormone secretin, and other controversial treatments, as well as that clinical report I was seeking, which reviews all the research on the effectiveness of educational strategies and treatments for autism.

With 57 percent of Americans saying they go online for health information, there’s clearly a need for pediatrician-vetted kids’ health information. It would have been great if the baby docs had made the new healthychildren.org site one-stop shopping, with a way both to find general health information and to drill down to get the latest scientific scoop. Until they do, I’ll check out this new site for more lifestyle-oriented health issues but go to aap.org or the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed when I want to read what the pediatricians are reading.