Objective: This paper focuses on the first two years of operation of Genetics Home Reference (GHR), a Web-based resource <http://www.ghr.nlm.nih.gov> for the general public that helps to explain the health implications of findings from the Human Genome Project.
Methods and findings: Key challenges of Web-based consumer health communication encountered in the growth and maintenance of GHR are discussed: prioritizing topics for GHR, streamlining the development process while keeping genetic information accurate, and designing a system that helps consumers navigate complex genetic relationships. Various strategies are used to address these challenges. Tying content development to topics of national priority and addressing topics requested by users makes the site increasingly important for both consumers and health professionals. Informatics methods are essential for quality control, particularly for genetic information that changes frequently. Indexing and hierarchical browsing features help to facilitate navigation.
Conclusions: GHR is a credible, dynamic Website that uses lay language to explain the effects of genetic variation on human health. Informatics strategies are key to effective management of a large and expanding body of genetics information. Feedback from formal and informal sources indicates increasing usage and favorable acceptance of GHR.