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iHealthFacts: a health fact-checking website for the public
  1. Paula Byrne1,2,3,
  2. Anne Daly4,
  3. Deirdre Mac Loughlin4,
  4. Caoimhe Madden5,
  5. Therese Mc Donnell6,
  6. Claire O'Connell7,
  7. Johanna Pope1,2,3,
  8. K M Saif-Ur-Rahman1,
  9. Petek Eylul Taneri1,3,
  10. Marie Tierney2,3,8,
  11. Elaine Toomey1,3,
  12. Declan Devane1,2,3
  1. 1Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine Nursing and Health Science, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
  2. 2Health Research Board Trials Methodology Research Network, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
  3. 3School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
  4. 4Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) in research advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
  5. 5School of Medicine, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
  6. 6Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, Education and Innovation in Health Systems (IRIS), School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  7. 7Independent Health Journalist, Dublin, Ireland
  8. 8School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paula Byrne, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Galway, Ireland; paula.p.byrne{at}

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Introduction and background

Unreliable health information has been identified as a public health challenge. It may lead individuals to explore unproven and potentially harmful medical treatments1 or cause delays in seeking appropriate healthcare services.2

Determining the accuracy of health information is especially challenging in the digital age.3 These challenges were underscored by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the WHO declared an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation and called for action to prevent the spread of false health information, particularly through social media and the internet.3

At the time, researchers at the University of Galway were producing evidence syntheses to inform COVID-19 policy and practice. Recognising the need to provide a similar quality of evidence to public audiences, they established iHealthFacts, an initiative to provide people living in Ireland with evidence-based information about health claims. iHealthFacts solicits questions from the public about health claims they encounter, conducts reviews of research evidence to answer these questions and presents the findings in an accessible way. These may include claims about the effects of health interventions, for example, treatments for diseases, diet, dietary supplements or exercise regimes. Initially, public enquiries were centred around COVID-19. Following the pandemic, the range of enquiries widened, notably with increased interest in traditional and complementary therapies.

The platform provides evidence-based responses to enquiries about health-related claims to support informed decision-making. It also endeavours to nurture critical thinking skills by introducing some of the scientific principles that underpin iHealthFacts’ assessments of each claim.

The iHealthFacts team includes two public and patient involvement (PPI) representatives. These individuals review and refine internal processes and advise on the communication strategy for iHealthFacts with public audiences. Their input significantly influences how information is curated and disseminated, helping to ensure its resonance with the public. Our PPI partners also bring lived experience …

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  • X @pbyrne82, @Saif_Rahman_KM

  • Correction notice Since this article first published, the second affiliation has been updated to include the term network.

  • Contributors PB, AD, DM, CM, TMD, CO’C, JP, KM S-U-R, PET, MT, ET and DD contributed to the planning, conduct and reporting of the work described in this article. PB is the guarantor, is responsible for the overall content, accepts full responsibility for the finished work and controlled the decision to publish.

  • Funding PB is funded by a grant for from the Health Research Board (HSE) and Health Service Executive (HSE) Grant no. INFO-2021-001. DD is the principal investigator for the core grant for from the Health Research Board (HSE) and Health Service Executive (HSE) Grant no. INFO-2021-001. JP’s PhD is funded by the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway. The PhD is focused on vulnerability to misinformation, Grant no. INFO-2021-001.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement statement PPI representatives were involved at all stages of the development, writing and revision of this paper. Their involvement in the iHealthFacts project is described in the paper.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.