One more blast from the past by way of introducing a discussion on the future of news on the web.
This was a series we did on hormone replacement therapy over a period of five years from 1997 to 2002. At the beginning of the period the first reports of side effects of this treatment were emerging. By the end, doctors were ceasing to prescribe it as a routine treatment.
For two years from 2000 to 2002, we backed this up with a discussion page. It was all done by hand. At the time you could not use an off-the-shelf discussion forum, let alone set up a blog. Comments were posted and laboriously added to the page by hand. This was a subject that has affected many women and comments continued to come in years after we ceased to maintain this micro-site in 2002 when the issue was all but settled.
Here's a flavour of the comments that came in later:
2004: Sylvia: "I took hrt for 19 years and felt good. I thought that I would try a period without it. I am 65. I came off it for two years and felt depressed,
very low, extremely tearful and lost my 'get up and go'. I am now back on it and I feel really great again. I intend to always take it."
2004: Diane: "I had a hysterectomy (including my ovaries) approximately six years ago. I have been on hrt for all of this time but unfortunately cannot say
that I feel good. I no longer feel like a woman. I feel that I have lost my looks, my hair has lost its shine and my skin looks really dull and I feel
lethargic all the time. Does anybody have any advice they can offer me in how I can feel better and feel better about myself. "
2003: Lynsey: "I take climagest 2mg I am 44 and I now feel very worried what to do. Either to stop or continue I have been taking HRT for 12 months."
2003: Des: "My mother has recently recoverd from breast cancer, she used HRT for a few years. I am very concerned that she was never told the dangers of taking these drugs, although they did make her feel better the risks long term could have been, and still could be life threatening. I would also like to know if there is anything being done to help these people who like my mother have suffered possibly unecessarily."
2003: Charlotte: "I had a hysterectomy at age 24 have been on hrt since that time, I am now 45. Found a lump in my breast 6 months ago, so far it's nothing. I am going to quit the hormones, and am wondering if coming off slow is better then just stopping."
People like to talk about their health and there's quite a few discussion forums around the web where they do that. They also like to check out information and rumours. If a report is in the newspapers they like to know what substance there is to it.
We felt at the time that by compiling a series of reports over a significant length of time, we gave readers a chance to get a flavour of how a medical debate was panning out. It was the same with the question about oils and fats in the previous posting. Individual reports may say something unexpected but when they saw the whole saga, reasonably intelligent reader would reach a single conclusion.
Now you can do this by means of a search engine....except that it will return an awful lot of results and building up the story is not always at all easy.
Next I want to take a look at the NHS Choices website. The British government plans to spend a whopping £80 million on this over the next three years. It has some interesting ideas ... but can it really become the ultimate consumer health site?