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New Life-Saving Website Too Busy for Its Own Good

Tara Parker-Pope wrote about a really interesting-sounding health website in today’s Wall Street Journal, called I say “interesting-sounding” because the site has been so deluged with traffic since this morning’s article that it is inaccessible at the moment. But I, along with a lot of other people, am eager to check it out. It is run by the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, and is both informational and prescriptive — not just about cancer but also diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc. The way the site works is that you type in personal information about your own health and risk factors and it tells you how likely you are to get sick eventually, and what to do if that happens. Here’s how Parker-Pope describes it:

The site goes beyond the standard questions about age, cholesterol and family history and explores the variety of lifestyle choices, environmental issues and other factors that can influence health risk. The questions are based on risk factors that have been established through credible scientific studies. To create the site, researchers pored through the medical literature, looking for various risk factors that could influence a particular disease, such as age of first period (breast cancer), age of first sexual contact (cervical cancer) and history of steroid use (osteoporosis). Then a committee of Harvard experts met to discuss the quality of the research behind those risk factors and formed a consensus on which risk factors should be used in the Web-site survey to calculate a person’s overall risk for various diseases … But the best thing about is the next step — a customized action plan showing how you can alter your risk through lifestyle changes.

The article ends by saying that the site, which is supported by Harvard and various foundations and grants, receives about 2,000 visits a day. To which I thought: Wow, if the information there is at all worthwhile, that is an incredibly small number of visits. Obviously, that all changed today. I only hope the servers can handle the new traffic soon enough so that potential users won’t forget to try again once it’s unfrozen. (If I don’t get around to it, maybe some nice reader of this blog can post a comment letting others know when the site is accessible.)