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Barcelona Med School Certifies Health Websites
BMJ 2002;324:567 (9 March)

Barcelona medical college runs certification system for websites

Xavier Bosch, Barcelona

Spain's most important initiative aimed at ensuring that health websites provide trustworthy information comes from the Official Medical College of Barcelona. In 1999 the college started the first self regulation scheme for health websites targeted at the Spanish speaking world.

This non-profit making "certified medical web" scheme "seeks to build trust online and improve the quality of health information on the internet through its web consulting service." Its stamp of approval carries the words Web Medica Acreditada, and the scheme is commonly referred to in Spain by the initials WMA.

The scheme's evaluation committee provides certification to the owner of a medical or health website that voluntarily requests the WMA seal and meets its criteria for certification.

To get the WMA seal, site owners must fulfil a series of standards. Other medical colleges have the right to certify websites, but none has so far done so.

Dr Miquel Angel Mayer, director of the WMA scheme, explained that, once a website has obtained certification, it is included in the WMA index of certified medical websites. The WMA committee periodically checks the websites for any "irregularities."

Dr Mayer added: "Currently, we are in a sort of 'level 1 certification,' where we try to ensure that websites are developed by professionals who, in addition to fulfilling the quality and ethics guidelines, take true responsibility for their website activities." He said that a fundamental objective of the project was to ensure that non-professional users felt "protected."

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