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MedlinePlus is Six Years Old on October 22

In just six short years, MedlinePlus, the consumer health Web site introduced by the National Library of Medicine on October 22, 1998, has become one of the Web's most popular destinations for reliable health information.

MedlinePlus provides free access to health information created by the National Institutes of Health and other trustworthy sources. Health science librarians in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine not only assist in identifying and evaluating the information to be included in MedlinePlus, but are of tremendous help in demonstrating the system locally and publicizing it.

The growth of MedlinePlus (and MedlinePlus en español, introduced in 2002) has been impressive. Today, nearly five and half million people a month from around the world visit the site, viewing over 52 million pages. This is in startling contrast to 1998 when MedlinePlus received about 53,000 visitors in its first quarter of existence.

Newspaper reporters are increasingly depending on MedlinePlus, at http://medlineplus.gov/, as an authority for health information for their stories. Much welcome publicity is received whenever writers cite MedlinePlus as a source. In addition, physicians now write "prescriptions" advising patients who need further information on a subject to visit the Web site.

The constantly growing MedlinePlus includes nearly 700 health topics, ranging from abdominal pain to yellow fever. In addition, MedlinePlus boasts a hospital guide, a prescription and over-the-counter drug reference guide, a medical encyclopedia, a medical dictionary, and a guide to physicians and dentists. One of the most popular offerings on MedlinePlus is the interactive "health tutorials" that have colorful images and sound. There is also a daily feed of articles from major newspapers on current health topics. Among the useful links in MedlinePlus are ClinicalTrials.gov, NIHSeniorHealth.gov, and PubMed/MEDLINE.

In noting the sixth birthday of MedlinePlus, NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D. said, "The success of MedlinePlus is a testimonial to the public's thirst for health information they can trust. One of the improvements we are now introducing is the 'Go Local' service, which links MedlinePlus users to relevant health services in their own city, county, and state. We will continue to expand MedlinePlus and make it ever more relevant to the needs of citizens, patients, and families."