HON - Arabic speaking Countries
In 2009, collaboration with the King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Science and the Saudi Association for Health informatics on the Assessment of Online Health Information for Arabic Sites, one year study
Assessment of Online Health Information for Arabic Sites
Mona Al Huziah a, Muna Al Kahtany a, Rawa Al Ammari a, Roa Al Faiz a , Célia Boyer b,
Majid M. Al-Tuwaijri a , Geissbuhler c
a King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Science; Saudi Association for Health informatics
b Health on the Net Foundation
c Geneva University; Faculty of Medicine; Department of Radiology and Medical Informatics
The trustworthiness of Arabic health content on the net is not yet assessed, therefore
King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Science (KSAU-HS) in collaboration with
Health on the Net Foundation (HON) & Geneva University, have conducted this study in
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
With the development of information technology and communications, there
has been an evolution in the “information age” which is mirrored in the exponential growth in
the number of web sites. Yet, it is unclear whether the confidence that we can give this
information is based on universal reliability criteria. A crucial concern is that patients apply
the information they have read on the Internet to their own lives directly, while there is an
extreme variability of the quality of health information on the Internet, which ranges from
beneficial to harmful. Health on the Net Foundation (HON), one of the leading organizations
in the deployment of useful and reliable online health information, has been interested in
extending its activities to other languages such as Arabic. In collaboration with KSAU-HS
and Geneva University, a study has been conducted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to assess
the trustworthiness of Arabic health websites.
this study aims to explore and describe Arabic health content on the Internet for
health professionals as well as patients in Arab countries, evaluates and assesses Arabic health
websites according to HON code of conduct, identify the specific needs for capacity building,
and understand the Arab health professionals' usage of online health information.
Methodology: An exploratory & descriptive research was conducted to assess and describe
the Arabic health content on the internet; these were, an inventory of health information
sources in Arabic, identification of the typology, assessment (evaluation according to the
principles of the HONcode certification), and a survey was conducted to identify confidence
criteria specific to online medical content and to evaluate the specific needs for capacity
It was established by the team to carry out the inventory for Arabic health sites with a period
of one month and a target sample size of 100 health sites. Websites were identified through
Google and Yahoo search engines in addition to using health directory websites.
Results & Analysis: The result of sites retrieved was 218 accessible health related sites. A
sample of 120 Health Websites was randomly selected from that list. 2 Arabic websites were
already added by HON team to the HON platform and were included with the sample sites list
to be reassessed, giving a total of 122 sample sites. The typology was identified for the
resulting 122 sites to understand the mechanisms of production; and then they were evaluated
according to the principles of the HONcode to record their alignment to the trustworthiness
criteria (the HONcode).
It was found that almost half of the sites originated from Saudi Arabia 46%, Egypt 15% and
the least was Sudan & Oman 1%.
43% of these sites were presented by Associations, 22% were Governmental, and the least
presented by Arabic health websites were Research Centers 5%.
A total of 965 questionnaires were manually and electronically distributed to health
professionals. Out of which 237 were returned. 40% of the respondents were physicians, and
the rest were from 8 different health specialties. Almost 70% were Saudis, and the rest were
from 11 different countries. More than three quarters of the participants (79%) did not use the
Arabian health websites. Almost all participants did not know about HONcode certification
Comparing the results of the assessment of the 122 sample of Arabic health
websites according to HONcode 8 principles to the results of assessments in the world
(French-Africa & Europe), the results stress the weakness points in health websites in Arab
countries, in respecting Advertisement, Complementarity, and Confidentiality policies.
There is a critical indication in the survey results that Arabic health professionals do not trust
Arabic health websites as source of health information, which needs a serious promotion of
the quality of the Arabic health websites, in order to improve their trustworthiness.