September 15, 2006 5:35 PM PDT

Here's to good health searches

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A new health-care search engine is set to launch publicly Monday that allows people to narrow searches based on personal characteristics and filter for information such as symptoms and treatments.

Healia lets users personalize their searches based on their gender, age, ethnicity and other factors. It also automatically generates contextual filters that cluster results under headings like "prevention" and "side effects."

For instance, a search for "rheumatoid arthritis" yields articles on the disease as well as results for similar searches, general searches (like "autoimmune diseases") and specific searches (like "chronic childhood arthritis").

It also offers up results under tabs labeled "prevention," "causes/risks," "symptoms," "diagnosis/tests" and "treatments." Clicking on filters for "professionals," "females" or "Hispanic heritage" further narrows the results.

Healia doesn't crawl the entire Web for results; only health-related sites that have been "independently vetted by trusted third-party organizations," said Tom Eng, Healia founder and chief architect.

While many of the top results for medical information on major search engines lead to sites selling products, Healia "acts as a trusted health librarian to help you wade through the maze of (medical) information on the Web," Eng said.

The site, developed with an $850,000 small-business grant from the National Institutes of Health, will compete with Medstory, which launched its beta site in July and also focuses on health-related information.

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