Researchers at the University of New South Wales are working to combine internet search technology and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to improve our health.

It's hoped that within 12 months Australians will have access to a high-precision online search technology tailored specifically to their health needs.

Currently, any online search through the popular search engines brings up predominantly American research.

"This will be like a Google search engine - but with a twist," says the lead researcher on the project, Professor Enrico Coiera from UNSW's Centre for Health Informatics (CHI).

"It's designed specifically for health in the Australian context, plus we will be incorporating ideas from social computing like Facebook and Wikipedia.

"People will be able to share knowledge with each other and there will be networks of people in specific groups - such as those interested in chronic fatigue, or breast cancer," says Professor Coiera.

The project is a partnership between UNSW, HCF Health and the Medical Research Foundation. The Foundation has granted $1 million dollars over two years to UNSW to further research and develop the world-first technology.

"We need an Australian-specific service because the drugs we have here are different, sometimes they are called different things and we have many diseases which are more common here, such as Ross River Fever, Q Fever and melanoma," Professor Coiera says.