Assessing Patterns in Childhood Obesity Patient Education: A Quality of Online Health Information and Google Trends Analysis.

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Childhood Obesity


childhood obesity, Google Trends, quality of health information, readability




Background: Childhood obesity (CO) is rapidly increasing in prevalence and developing into a health crisis of developed nations. The condition is associated with increased risk of developing various comorbidities later in life. Current treatment algorithms primarily target family education. Thus, this study aims to understand the quality of information online regarding CO and common comorbidities, determine the readability of online information, and report patterns in public interest over time using Google Trends.

Methods: Four validated quality of information tools and 6 readability tools were implemented across 36 websites derived from 4 Google searches. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to determine the associations between Google Trends' relative search volumes (RSVs) and biennial BMI-based cumulative proportion of CO.

Results: Results showed variable information quality among the websites as scores ranged from “fair” to “very poor.” Using six readability formulas, no website scored at or below the sixth grade reading level recommended by the American Medical Association. Google Trends' RSVs for the term “Childhood Obesity” were repeatedly increased in the months that fall in the US academic school year (October–November and February–May), and decreased within months in the US vacation periods (December–January and June–September). Search volumes were also negatively correlated with CO and pediatric type 2 diabetes prevalence.

Conclusions: In summary, while Google Trends analysis showed that schools may play a role in increasing interest and awareness online, quality of information and readability analysis displayed that the information and its accessibility are far too variable to be reliable.



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