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By David Mendosa

Last Update: June 1, 1998

Unlike most of the sites I've reviewed here, the NIDDK Health Information: Diabetes Web site is "not in it for the money," says Site Manager Kathy Kranzfelder. "We happily give away everything we have in terms of information."

In 1994 this was the first diabetes site.

This site is definitely non-commercial because it's part of the federal government. NIDDK stands for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It's in Bethesda, Maryland, and is one of 17 institutes that make up the National Institutes of Health under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The government's lead agency for diabetes research, NIDDK operates three information clearinghouses of interest to people looking for information on diabetes. You can easily reach one of these, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, from a link on the NIDDK site. The other two clearinghouses are the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse and the Weight-control Information Network. NIDDK also funds six Diabetes Research and Training Centers.

While NIDDK's mission is primarily to conduct and support biomedical research, most people come to its Web site for health information. About 2,000 people visit the site daily.

"Every day in our e-mail are letters of thanks for providing this information—many of which are sent in the wee hours of the morning after the sender has returned from the emergency department with a diagnosis and little or no other information and a whole lot of anxiety," Ms. Kranzfelder says. "These letters have universally noted the relief of having been able to find someone or something to explain what the doctor didn't or couldn't in the emergency room."

Ms. Kranzfelder says that she got involved with the World Wide Web because, as the director for the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, she was looking for a way to take advantage of new technologies to disseminate clearinghouse materials. A colleague taught her basic HTML Web page coding, and they began scanning, converting, and proofing a pilot page. The site first went on-line at the end of 1994.

"For the first two years we focused on adding content, content, content," Ms. Kranzfelder says. "And then we finally turned our energies toward design."

The recently competed redesign of the site used graphics experts and other technical staff. "But we've really done it all on a shoestring," she says.

The design is clean and simple and no nonsense. It lacks any spinning, flashing, scrolling, or blinking text and has few images to distract from its message. Consequently, it loads quickly, apparently even faster than before the redesign.

It makes no attempt to excite or entertain anyone, Ms. Kranzfelder says. "It's there to give people the information they're looking for in an environment that makes it easy to consume." This information is "solid and science-based and not the least bit anecdotal," she says.

When you visit this site, it looks like it's not much more than just a list of some 30 documents. But what documents they are!

It's hard to know where to start describing the riches here, because they span just about all the most important areas of knowledge about diabetes. Here for the taking are dozens of on-line publications about everything from acarbose to end-stage renal disease.

For those just diagnosed with diabetes "Do Your Level Best" is a good place to start learning about your diabetes. For a comprehensive look at the disease probably the longest and most detailed on-line document is the 733-page report on "Diabetes in America."

Also here is a page about the most important clinical study of diabetes ever, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). Between 1983 and 1993 the NIDDK studied 1,441 volunteers who used insulin and found that keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible slows the onset and progression of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases caused by diabetes.

That study was some of the best news ever for people with diabetes. And this site is appropriately one of the best Web sites for information about the disease. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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