Wikipedia: A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion

As there are more than 20,000 medical-related articles in Wikipedia, and a further 6,000 drug-related entries, there are always a lot of things to do. Last year, we decided to summarize what we have been doing in the health sections of Wikipedia with a group of medical editors and make our summary public in an open-access journal. Now it was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The Internet has become an important health information resource for patients and the general public. Wikipedia, a collaboratively written Web-based encyclopedia, has become the dominant online reference work. It is usually among the top results of search engine queries, including when medical information is sought. Since April 2004, editors have formed a group called WikiProject Medicine to coordinate and discuss the English-language Wikipedia’s medical content. This paper, written by members of the WikiProject Medicine, discusses the intricacies, strengths, and weaknesses of Wikipedia as a source of health information and compares it with other medical wikis. Medical professionals, their societies, patient groups, and institutions can help improve Wikipedia’s health-related entries. Several examples of partnerships already show that there is enthusiasm to strengthen Wikipedia’s biomedical content. Given its unique global reach, we believe its possibilities for use as a tool for worldwide health promotion are underestimated. We invite the medical community to join in editing Wikipedia, with the goal of providing people with free access to reliable, understandable, and up-to-date health information.

The official blog of the Wikimedia Foundation acknowledged our publication:

The paper urges physicians and medical professionals to find ways to incorporate contributions to Wikipedia into their work, suggesting ideas for scholarly incentives or possibly issuing continuing medical education credits. To get involved, visit WikiProject Medicine.  You may also want to check out some introductory how-to-edit guides posted by the Wikimedia outreach team.

We’re deeply appreciative of the pioneering work that these editors are carrying out on Wikipedia, alongside their ongoing professional careers.  Wikipedians from all walks of life, and from around the world, are collaborating to further expand the quality and breadth of Wikipedia’s freely available and reusable medical information – furthering the Wikimedia mission of spreading free knowledge around the world.  Thank you!