The U.S. government is deeply involved in the health of its citizens. It supports dozens of agencies that provide health services to us.
The benefit of using information provided by the government is its credibility and reliability. Since these agencies are non-profit and funded by U.S. taxpayers, their goal is simply to benefit our health.
The following government organizations provide information we patients can use to learn more about prevention, diagnoses, symptoms or treatment options. Access to all this information is free because it is already paid for by tax dollars. Most, but not all, are a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Not all agencies are listed here because not all offer information that is directly useful to patients. Those agencies may be geared more toward the media, healthcare professionals or policy makers. You may access those not listed here from Health.gov.
The government has created a portal specifically for patients called HealthFinder. You can find a link and more information about HealthFinder below.
Each state offers information through its own state health department.
The agencies and websites listed here are those which can be of the most help to patients, as follows:
- AHRQ - Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
The AHRQ provides excellent information for navigating your healthcare and improving your experience with your providers and the facilities where you receive care. It is concerned with quality, safety, efficiency and the effectiveness of care delivery. One section of this site is devoted to consumer and patient information.
- CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC website offers information about any disease or condition, including infectious diseases that may affect a patient in the United States or abroad. There are subset-type agencies that contain information about everything from birth defects, to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, to immunizations and more.
- CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Patients and consumers who are age 65 or older, have a family member with a disability or meet certain income requirements may find information of interest at the CMS website. Most of the site is aimed at the health and payment professionals who help Medicare and Medicaid patients. Some information of use to patients might be the Acronym Lookup Tool and the various forms needed to file for some of these services.
- Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are conducted around the world to test drugs, devices and other therapies. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, then make sure you understand the benefits and potential risks, then check this site to find current clinical trials, those that will begin in the near future, and those completed in the past several years.
- Food and Drug Administration - FDA
The FDA - Food and Drug Administration website is produced by the U.S. government and provides reliable, credible and useful information for patients and any food, drug, dietary supplement, or medical device sold in the United States.
If you are looking for general health information, this is a good place to start. You can find links from this portal to everything from "online checkups" to health news and a list of national health observances.
- Indian Health Service
If you are American Indian or an Alaska Native, this site can provide you with information about services that have been tailored specifically to your needs, including medical problems, mental health issues, social and spiritual health.
- IOM - Institute of Medicine
Chartered in 1970 as a component of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) advises American citizens on matters of science, including biomedical, medical and health matters. Specifically, it provides "unbiased, evidence-based and authoritative information concerning health and science policy to policy-makers, professionals, leaders in every sector of society and the public at large." While its studies and reports are very well known in professional circles, one study it conducted in 1999 is most known to patients. The results of the study, called To Err is Human, showed that between 44,000 and 99,000 Americans die each year from medical errors.
- Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine - NLM
Medline Plus has patient information from the National Library of Medicine. Using Medline Plus is like having an entire medical library at your fingertips.
- National Cancer Institute - NCI
No matter what you'd like to learn about what type of cancer, you'll find the information on this site. From prevention, to screening, to diagnosis, treatment and current information about genetics and cancer, you will find it on this site.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine - NCCAM
The NCCAM - National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is an excellent resource for credible, reliable, useful and objective information about these approaches to medical care. For patients who are interested in evidence that supports or debunks alternative medicine, this is the place to look.
- National Institutes of Health - NIH
The NIH, National Institutes of Health is an umbrella organization for 27 different aspects of health and medicine. The main website provides links to its other sites.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Help for a variety of substance abuse and mental health problems can be found through this agency. Drug and alcohol treatment, suicide prevention, and evidence based treatment protocols are available at this site.
- Additional U.S. Government Health-Related Agencies
There are dozens more agencies that are focused specifically on one disease, condition or body system. The best place to find them all is through HealthFinder.gov.
Return to the master list of types of health and medical information resources you can use in your research.
... and don't forget to make sure the information you use is credible and reliable.