Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the January

18, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Health Watch: Website Review

New Jersey is the first state to put up a comprehensive healthcare

consumer information website. Governor Codey, who has taken a special

interest in health issues, was behind the project, which consolidates

information from six websites into one central online address,

(www.nj.gov/njhealthlink). Formerly, pieces of the information were

available from the departments of health and senior services, human

services, labor, commerce, banking, or insurance.

The site’s links put users through to treatment and screening

services, emergency resources, mental health, addiction, prescription

drugs, nutrition, long-term care, insurance, financial assistance, and

vocational rehabilitation services, and more. In addition to grouping

health information by topic, the website also breaks it down by

categories such as children, family, senior citizens, individuals

adults, individuals with diabetes, and uninsured or underinsured

people.

Before its launch, the website was evaluated by user groups, including

senior citizens, county welfare staff, and the New Jersey Healthcare

Quality Institute.

The website has a clean interface, and is easy to use. The information

it offers is succinct and helpful. It is not an unending source of

reading material on any of its subjects, but rather is a gateway to

more information.

The alphabet is strung along the top of the search page. Looking for

addiction services? Press "A" and a list of resources pops up under

two subheads, "tobacco" and "drugs and alcohol." Anyone hoping to put

butts behind him or her forever can then click on links to Mom’s Quit

Connection, NJ Quit Centers – five are listed, including the Mercer

Trenton Addiction Service Center and the UMDNJ School of Public Health

Quit Center – the NJ Quitline or NJ Quitnet. For those who are

struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, there are links to

everything from opiate detoxification to group recovery homes.

One minor quibble with the alphabetic system is that there is not a

clear link to health insurance information. It’s there, under

"individual health coverage program," but using the word "insurance,"

an issue at the top of many people’s healthcare agendas, would have

been better.

The range of subjects covered is immense. There is a link to the

Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Program, the Deaf

Enhanced Screening Center, family planning services, homeless services

for the mentally ill, diabetic eye disease detection services,

pharmaceutical assistance to the aged and disabled, project healthy

bones, HIV testing, and Medicaid.

This is not a website on which to find in-depth information about a

particular illness, nor does it have any forum or chat room features

for the exchange of information. What it does is provide a summary of

many, many in-state health-related programs, along with phone contacts

for more information, and links to these programs’ websites.

For each topic, users are given what amounts to a very clear referral.

The information for each link is organized in exactly the same way,

which is incredibly helpful. There is no need to hunt through pages of

information for an E-mail address, physical address, or phone number.

All contact information is presented in a box on the left of each link

page. Hours of service are also given, as is information on how to

apply for services.

The bulk of information is contained in a larger box to the right.

There is a one-paragraph program description, information on fees and

eligibility requirements, a list of geographical areas served and

languages spoken, and a website address. Care has been taken to fit

all of the information on one page.

Think of New Jersey Healthlink as a quick ready reference. An

outstanding use of the Internet, it provides well-organized

information without raising anyone’s blood pressure by throwing in

registration information, a multi-layered, flash-filled homepage, or

convoluted detours. The no-nonsense healthlink is worth a bookmark.


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