Credibility?

Standard

I am not a fan of blogs as an authority. And now, I not only have a blog – I have two! Yegads.

I, unsuccessfully, have tried to set my little aromatherapy web presence apart from others by applying for an “ethics certificate”, following some set guidelines for honorable wellness information. I made my website, Facebook page, blog, and App for The Bard’s Apothecary MONTHS before I released it publicly.

I wanted the collective electronic resources to be a reliable and credible educational tools for the family and friends I served. It needed to be something that could give them clear and documented information to make their own wellness decisions using the parameters of Health On the Net Code of Conduct: HONcode.

HONcode sets forth eight general principles which determine the credibility and reliability of a site. Each has a subset of indicators to follow as well. These principles are:

  1. Authoritative: Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  2. Complementarity: Information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship
  3. Privacy: Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  4. Attribution: Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  5. Justifiability: Site must back up claims relating to benefits and performance
  6. Transparency: Accessible presentation, accurate email contact
  7. Financial disclosure: Identify funding sources
  8. Advertising policy: Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

In general, I color outside the lines. However, in this project I constructed each electronic component very carefully, with regiment. My responses to each of these can be found in are hidden in the administrative area of my website {bottom left >>>> disclaimer, terms, privacy, accountability, and advertising} and few will ever read it. But what is detailed in that area really drove the content and format of all of the tools I have created. It is far from perfect, but I have tried:

  • My links are identified: friendly, informational, and affiliate.
  • Linked documents have permission for use from the author.
  • The pictures I have used on the website are either mine, provided through my web building program or taken from the public domain, rather than copied from someone else’s site or google images.

However I was not successful getting the HONcode Badge. My site was not approved {head hanging} by HONcode for two reasons.

  1. My business model includes phone and online e-mail consultation. They will not allow that. True confession: I debated just taking that off the website for a moment and laughed at how to be certified as ethical I contemplated deception.
  2. My documentation, although thorough and present, was flawed. I provided links directly to the resource so someone could find the electronic trail rather than placing the references in a more standard format. Further, the resources I was relying upon were not considered as scientific enough or with websites up to HONcode standards either.
  3. Interestingly, making a health claim – so taboo in the world of essential oils – was not prohibited, IF backed up with proper citations from authorities (not a blogger) and properly documented.

My rejection actually made me think. You know, we often don’t know what we don’t know. I would have never placed remote consulting as outside of the parameters of ethical or honorable. I would have thought some other areas were no-nos.

An important consideration in aromatherapy is that much of it is based on case study rather than what is the gold standard in health research, controlled trials. In this field of alternative health, research is often directed at proving age old practices rather than creating scientific evidence to drive the practice – the inductive versus deductive > you know: “X oil has been used for years for skin problems and now with research we know that it contains X chemical that helps the skin” rather than “No one has ever tried this oil to do X and now research shows it might work in a double blind study”. There is this odd dance between empirical and data driven evidence. The point being, a great portion of the functioning field of aromatherapy lies outside of the ability to cite as a “credible” resource. That make sense? It would be a far stretch to get the certificate until the entire field grows … and it will. I am so very confident in that.

I am still trying (less than perfectly) to uphold the HONcode principles. I have signed the Blog with Integrity pledge. I use HONcode as a lens for looking at the validity of other sites, as well. I want affiliate links identified clearly. Please let me know exactly who is behind a site or page and their qualifications. Pinterest and Wikipedia are NOT valid resources. Guide me to your references.

Domestic healers have come in all sorts of costumes over the ages. Today’s is often a mom in yoga pants who just wants information to empower her decision making for the health of her family. I am no PubMed, but I do have formal training and a good head on my shoulders so I don’t want to be considered a quack shack either. Since there is no central certificate in aromatherapy, I had hoped HONcode would be a shingle to hang on my website. Not yet.

Here’s to trying …..

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