Need answers about swine flu or allergies? CureTogether!

As the spread of influenza A virus H1N1 (otherwise known as the swine flu) continues around the world, it becomes even more important for researchers to have access to as much clinical data as possible so that they can develop treatments not just for this virus, but for many other common conditions affecting our population.  One way that clinical data can be available for researchers to analyze is through CureTogether, an open source health research plan.  (For more information on what it means to be an open source, click here.)

This webpage is not just helpful to the researchers that can log on and view the anonymous data compiled by the website, as users can also benefit just by updating their profile.  The CureTogether website allows you to track your health day-by-day by monitoring your medication schedule or health goals, and you can compare your symptoms and treatment plans to those of other users.  This has the potential to be a great networking system for those just diagnosed with an illness, especially those who are not ready to connect publicly through a face-to-face support group.

I know the idea of putting your health information on the internet can be scary, so I checked out this site personally before writing this post.  Signing up was very easy – I entered my e-mail address, a password, and a username that will be visible to other users of the database (which you can make as personal or as impersonal as you choose).  I then searched for the health conditions that affect me, and answered a series of yes or no questions about my symptoms and treatment for that disease.  I now have the options of monitoring my weight, sleep, and symptoms on a daily basis.  Additionally, CureTogether will provide updates to my personal webpage with treatments and symptoms as other people report them.  If I choose to, I can connect with the community further by blogging about dealing with my condition (I’m sure many people can relate to my terrible allergies, for example) or jump into an existing blog-based discussion with patients that share my condition.  The nice thing about CureTogether is that you can be as connected or as disconnected from the community as you want to be on the user level – the only thing that will be collected is the anonymous data that you input about your condition.  And what happens to all this data?  CureTogether posts data generated by the website community as it is used in research studies.  You can track this on their Research Findings blog.

NOTE:  This website, while very helpful, should not be used in lieu of seeing your regular medical doctor.  However, the things you learn while visiting CureTogether may help you and your doctor to develop your ongoing treatment plan.

PROJECT SNAPSHOT:

  • Topics: health, research database
  • Location: at home or close to home
  • Duration: a few minutes daily, if you want to track your progress
  • Cost: free or low cost
  • Gear: a computer with internet access
  • Level of Difficulty: easy

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