Searching for Health: The Smart Way to Find Information Online and Put It to Use

It took one day to make a four year writing journey worthwhile. When Anna and I began on Searching for Health four years ago, we thought that it was a good idea, but more than once we had to convince ourselves that people would find the effort useful. After all, can a book really help people search for health information online?

Yet, we persevered and finally got to the stage of sharing early electronic (on account of the pandemic) copies of the book with friends, family and media as part of its promotion. On that particular day I happened to hear from several different people how the material in the book helped them on their health journey. In each case, there were different parts of the book that resonated with the reader, suggesting that there was useful information throughout. As Anna and I excitedly discussed this feedback, we agreed that it was the best result we could have hoped for.

On the one hand, this was not surprising. The book is based on more than 100 research studies that cover many different nuances of finding and communicating health information. This body of work has validated the insights we share in our book. Furthermore, I had firsthand experience through my work building products at Google and seeing patients as a cardiologist on how tools could help people navigate this incredibly complex information space. Anna shared with me important insights on communication, messaging, and engagement from her experience in journalism and public health communications, but also her personal feedback as a patient.



On the other hand, the trials and tribulations of writing a book are very real and the reward often feels quite uncertain. Anna and I juggled full time jobs and raising young children with the writing of the book. We learned to collaborate between New York and Washington DC, working remotely years before the pandemic brought that experience to everyone else. More than once, we had to set aside writing to deal with more pressing issues in our lives. Sometimes sources wouldn’t come through or we would struggle to find the right framing or debate the best approach to chapter. Yet, through it all, we persevered, recognizing deep down that this was important work. The inspiration that sustained us over the years was that this effort would make a meaningful difference in our readers’ lives.

Looking back, I’m so glad that we wrote this book. We’ve already heard how one person used a patient agenda to have a more informed visit with her doctor, and another to navigate a cancer diagnosis. Another person is using the symptom tracker to keep tabs on pregnancy symptoms. Someone else learned about triage lines and was really grateful for the information as she found herself needing one within a few weeks of reading the book. These examples suggest that there are many ways in which Searching for Health is a valuable resource for a wide range of people in a variety of situations.

As it turns out, a book can indeed help people who are searching for health.

Order Searching for Health: The Smart Way to Find Information Online and Put It to Use at the following link: https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/searching-health

Kapil Parakh, MD, MPH, PhD, a practicing cardiologist who trained at Johns Hopkins, works at Google. There, he has spearheaded efforts to provide high-quality health information to over a billion users. With Anna Dirksen, he is the coauthor of Searching for Health: The Smart Way to Find Information Online and Put It to Use.

Learn more about Searching for Health on the authors’ website: https://www.searchingforhealth.org/

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