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When You're Sick, Mammahealth.com Is There

Mamma.com this week launched a Web and meta-search service for health information, one of the most commonly searched topics on the Internet.
Even as adults, we sometimes go to our mammas for help. Now Mamma.com Inc., a company that provides meta-search-engine and Internet-retrieval services, is hoping that consumers will look to it for health information, one of the most common uses of the Web by the public.

Mamma this week launched a "deep" Web and meta-search service for health information. The new Mammahealth.com site is the first of several specific search sites Mamma plans to unveil this year, company CEO Guy Fauré says. One such site will focus on travel, he says.

The Mammahealth site searches content of several popular health and medical sites, including HealthAtoZ.com, HealthDay, eMedicine.com, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and government health sites such as MedlinePlus, which is operated by the United States, and NHSDirect Online, which is operated by the United Kingdom.

Mammahealth sends queries to the multiple data sources and then aggregates and formats real-time information in a number of ways. For instance, a search of a topic such as "acne" would give information results in a format that includes an overview, causes/symptoms, treatments, news, and frequently asked questions. Users can click to the Web page of information from those sites providing the content.

The site also includes a "second opinion" link that allows users to link to alternative sources of information about a topic.

Mammahealth doesn't featuring ads or banners from companies marketing health products because Mamma is looking to provide "a public service" for health queries, Fauré says. However, other future vertical sites, such as travel, will likely feature consumer advertising, he says.

Brian King, an HIV-prevention educator who used the beta version of Mammahealth, says the search results filter out marketing information and instead provide valuable medical information. "Searches bring up medical information from reliable sources, not ads or marketing literature for drugs or other companies trying to sell something," which is frequently the case when King does health-related searches on Google or Yahoo, he says.

Mamma, based in Montreal, is a publicly traded company that posted revenue of $15.8 million and net income of $1.1 million in 2004, Fauré says. The company employs 60 people in Canada and Florida. Launched in 1996, the company's revenue has tripled over the last three years.