Who should we listen to for health advice?

Why do we listen to the health advice of some more than others, and how can this help us create healthier communities?

When seeking advice about a health concern whom do you turn to? Who do you trust to give you the right information? Very often we already know the answer to some of the questions we ask, but what happens when it’s about a topic that’s outside our field of experience and knowledge?

So many people go online to answer health-related queries. In fact we’ve all probably done it at some point or another. There may be a thousand different articles that pop up on Google and online health forums that offer advice on all manners of health concerns.

In a paper by Rueger et al (2020), advice in online communities was evaluated, looking at what lay advice is appreciated more than others. The article found that:

  1. Advice was valued and appreciated more so when it came from people with similar prevailing interests in groups.
  2. Advice is valued more when it comes from people who can draw on diverse experiences and knowledge in other areas of health.
  3. Advice giving is reinforced when those who are quickest to obtain the most recent updates and knowledge available in the wider community, provide it.

The article concluded that this information had implications for policy makers and health care practitioners. I think it has an even more localised approach in our communities. Using these guidelines it could mean easier and more effective dissemination of information, community events, projects and services; the faster adaptation of health behaviours and improved engagement in well-being schemes; the identification of volunteers, mental health first aiders, and health and well-being champions.

When Don’t Tone Alone CIC runs well-being projects (especially peer support projects), we have the option to create health champions. The training looks to find enthusiastic yet empathetic individuals that can connect with others to keep their communities healthy and engaged. This article had given us food for thought on how we identify candidates and give them the tools to help their peer group. What lessons can you take from science?





Rueger et al., 2020, Perception of Peer Advice in Online Health Communities Access to Lay Expertise, Social Science and Medicine, 113117.