I am honored and excited that Anxiety, Panic & Health was accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation in October, 2008. It means that this site complies with the Health on the Net Code of Conduct and can display the HONcode badge.
The award-winning Health On the Net Foundation developed the HONcode in 1996 as a means to standardize requirements to establish the reliability and credibility of health information. It certifies websites through a stringent application and review process, then polices the site to make sure it continues to comply with its eight Principles. It has certified over 6,500 websites worldwide in 32 languages, and has partnerships with the European Union, the World Health Organization, the National Library of Medicine, and Google.
This article is the first in a two-part series. Today’s post will introduce you to the Health On the Net Foundation. Tomorrow’s post lists the HONcode principles and how Anxiety, Panic & Health complies with them. Today’s topics include:
- What is the Health On the Net Foundation?
- What does the Health On the Net Foundation do?
- How does a site become HONcode accredited?
What is the Health On the Net Foundation?
HON established in 1995
The Health On the Net Foundation (HON) was established 1995 under the auspices of the Ministry of Health of the State of Geneva. It is a non-governmental organization. Its stated mission is: 
To guide Internet users by highlighting reliable, understandable, relevant and trustworthy sources of online health and medical information.
HON arose from concerns such as:
- The uncertain quality of medical advice provided on growing numbers of Web sites
- The lack of scientific evidence behind claims made for commercially-available treatments
- Many sites were not providing even basic user orientation, like the source of cited documents, Webmaster contact information, last-update notices on pages or information on their organisational structure and funding.
The HONcode was developed in 1996 after discussions with webmasters and information providers showed that they were anxious to improve their services and would be happy to follow some simple, broadly-accepted rules and guidelines for content presentation. Today, the HONcode certifies: 
- Over 6,500 sites world wide
- 72 countries
- 32 languages
- Over 1,200,000 web pages accredited
What does the Health On the Net Foundation do?
Accountability, quality and reliability for websites
HON has several missions besides the HONcode certification of web sites. It is active world-wide in establishing accountability, quality and reliability for websites. Its activities include:
- HONdossiers. Special in-depth reports and surveys on health topics and eHealth trends which deserve special attention
- HONcode. Accreditation of websites with the aim to improve the informational quality of medical and health on the internet. Maintains a searchable database — the only one — of reliable health sites on the internet.
- HONprojects (in partnership with Google). These include MedHunt, an intelligent and specialized search engine designed to locate internet information related to a given medical and health domain; and HONselect, the first assisted-search facility that integrates diverse databases to offer users a full assortment of healthcare information and resources available on the internet.
- WRAPIN. HON-led European Union project to automatically determine the quality and reliability of medical documents online.
- HON is the official accrediting body for all French health websites.
It has partnerships with the European Union, the World Health Organization, National Library of Medicine, and Google, among others. Among its international recognitions are:
- In 2002, HON Foundation was recognized as a non-governmental organization and granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council
- In May 2004, HON won the “eEurope Award for eHealth” presented by the European Union and the European Commission
HON participated actively in the development of the European Union document setting quality criteria for use by Member States, as well as public and private bodies, in the development of quality initiatives for health related sites.
How does a website become HONcode accredited?
Certification process is quite stringent
The HONcode application and approval process is quite rigorous. To obtain certification, a Web site applies for registration through a lengthy online form. If accepted, the site agrees to abide by the HON Principles and qualifies to display the HONcode seal. The HONcode accreditation team consists of:
- 6 Physicians
- 1 Pharmacist
- 1 Ph.D. in molecular biology
- 2 Law graduates
- 3 Medical students
HON does regular random checks of sites to certify compliance, as well as relying on reports from the public. It is the only accrediting organization that allows the public to comment on the compliance of websites with its code, as well as actively policing accredited sites. It has a system of warning sites about non-compliance, finally resulting in withdrawing accreditation.
Tomorrow’s post, entitled “HONCode Principles: How Anxiety, Panic & Health Fulfills Them,” will list the eight Principles of the Health on the Net Code of Conduct and how Anxiety, Panic & Health complies with each one.
What do you think?
I am like a proud papa whose son has hit the home run that won the series! Perhaps I’m over-enthusiastic, but HON certification is a great honor and validation of this blog’s content and purpose. The HONcode is the premier certification in the world for health- and medical-related websites.
- Have you ever heard of the Health On the Net Foundation?
- Have you seen the HONcode badge on any other sites?
- Do you think that the HONcode certification adds authority to Anxiety, Panic & Health?
As always, your comments are welcome!
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1. Health on the Net Foundation. (2006, October 9). Trustworthy health and medical information: the Health On the Net initiative. Retrieved November 15, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/Global/pdf/TrustworthyOct2006.pdf , p.6↑
2. Health on the Net Foundation. (2006, March 30). How it started. Retrieved November 15, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/background.html. ¶ 2↑
3. Health on the Net Foundation. (2006, October 9). p.10↑
4. Health on the Net Foundation. (2008). Health On the Net Foundation. Retrieved November 17, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/ ↑
5. Health on the Net Foundation. (2006, October 9). p.26 ↑
6. Health on the Net Foundation. (3006, April 3). EU Joins Standards Setting Movement with Publication of Quality Criteria. Retrieved November 15, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/HON_CCE_intro.htm ↑
7. If you would like to read the European Union document “eEurope 2002: Quality Criteria for Health Related Websites,” it is available at http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/HON_CCE_en.htm as of November 15, 2008. ↑
8. Health on the Net Foundation. (2006, October 9). p.4 ↑
9. HON has been on the Anxiety, Panic & Health site at least once a week since it was accredited in October, 2008!↑