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Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2018 Feb 19;41:e115.

[Infoxication in health. Health information overload on the Internet and the risk of important information becoming invisible].

[Article in Spanish; Abstract available in Spanish from the publisher]

Author information

Organización Panamericana de la Salud, Unidad de Información y Análisis de Salud, Departamento de Enfermedades Transmisibles, Washington, DC, Estados Unidos de América,
Salud Pública y Redes Sociales, Bogotá, Colombia.
Organización Panamericana de la Salud, Oficina de Gestión del Conocimiento, Bioética e Investigación, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


in English, Portuguese, Spanish


The objectives of this study were to: 1) raise awareness of the volume of quality health information on the Internet; 2) explore perceptions of information professionals with regard to the use of qualified sources for health decision-making; and 3) make recommendations that facilitate strengthening health worker capacities and institutional competencies related to digital literacy.


A non-experimental, descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted with a non-probability sample of 32 information professionals from nine countries. Internet information was compiled on the volume of content in Internet tools, social networks, and health information sources. Searches in English and Spanish were carried out using the keywords Ebola, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, safe food, health equity, safe sex, and obesity. Finally, information was obtained on opportunities for formal education on the subjects of digital literacy, information management, and other related topics.


Selecting only four diseases with a high impact on public health in May 2016 and averaging minimum review time for each information product, it would take more than 50 years without sleeping to consult everything that is published online about dengue, Zika, Ebola, and chikungunya.


We conclude that public health would benefit from: health institutions implementing formal knowledge management strategies; academic health sciences institutions incorporating formal digital literacy programs; and having health workers who are professionally responsible and functional in the information society.


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