A New Toolkit to Promote Health Resources at Libraries

I’ve written before about how public libraries are a vitally important resource for teaching health literacy skills, providing health-related programs and services, and offering access to reliable health information for the general public.  The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) offers public libraries a number of resources to help them fulfill this role, such as free online classes for library staff on consumer health topics and a fantastic guide to health information resources and programming ideas (created with California State Library), Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library: A Consumer Health Toolkit for Library Staff (2nd ed).  Back in September, I learned about a new toolkit created by NNLM and the American Library Association (ALA) for promoting health literacy at libraries that I wanted to take a closer look at.

This Health Literacy Toolkit is part of the broader Libraries Transform campaign from ALA, which is “designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.”  The toolkit offers simple, catchy “Because Statements” highlighting how libraries benefit individual and community health (like “Because quality information helps you make better decisions”).

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Because Statements from the toolkit.

Each Because Statement can be printed as a poster, postcard, bookmark, or table tent or shared on social media (graphics sized for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook).  The toolkit also offers key messages, activity suggestions, and resource links related to each Because Statement.  Access to the toolkit materials is free, but users must register to access the materials.  The toolkit isn’t made specifically for public libraries and can also be used in school, academic, and special libraries to promote health resources.

Overall, I’m really impressed with the elegantly simple and unifying promotional messages offered by the Health Literacy Toolkit.  I spend a lot of time on social media in my current job, and I understand the importance of bold, simple statements that will hook the audience and stick in their mind.  Libraries are such amazingly valuable resources for offering equal access to high quality information and services, but unfortunately some people may view libraries as obsolete due to changing technology and user needs.  The Because Statements in this toolkit act as sharp, quick explanations about why libraries are still relevant and important for community health.  I also appreciate that the Because Statements can be downloaded in a wide variety of formats, so libraries can use them for both print and social media promotion.

The toolkit has a few areas where it could potentially be improved to increase promotional value and also direct library staff to additional useful health resources.  The text of the Because Statements is very catchy, but some sort of imagery added below the Because Statements could make the graphics much more eye-catching and appealing to a wider range of library patrons. Translation of the Because Statements into other languages (especially Spanish) could also help to reach a broader population of patrons.  Finally, I’d love to see some sort of integration between this new toolkit and the Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit.

The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit offers a much broader list of health resources and programming ideas, while the Health Literacy Toolkit offers the graphics and promotional messages needed to promote these health resources and programs.  The Finding Health and Wellness @ the Library toolkit does seem to be in need of an update (with the second edition published in 2013).  Hopefully if the Health and Wellness toolkit is updated in the near future, it will be more closely linked to the new Health Literacy Toolkit.  Both toolkits offer important and complementary tools for creating and promoting health resources and programs within libraries.

 

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What Role Should Libraries Play in Preventing Opioid Abuse?

The abuse of opioids (both prescription and illegal) is a major public health crisis in the US.  The Centers for Disease Control describe how 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and the number of opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999.  More overdoses are occurring at public libraries, which leads to the question: what roles should librarians have in helping to prevent and treat opioid abuse?

Public Libraries Preventing and Treating Overdoses

A coworker recently shared a fantastic article with me from American Libraries (a publication of the American Library Association) by Anne Ford, called “Saving Lives in the Stacks.”  The article describes how many public libraries are taking active steps to prevent overdoses onsite, such as:

  • Monitoring public bathroom use (to prevent overdoses in restroom stalls).
  • Training staff to administer Narcan (generic name naloxone), a medication that can reverse the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Public librarians often take on a wide variety of roles, ranging from teacher to program planner, but do librarians also need medical training to act as first responders?  This question raises legal and ethical issues beyond what I’m able to answer myself, but there is one role that I’m confident librarians can fill during this public health crisis: as information providers.

Information on Opioid Addiction and Treatment

Medical, academic, and public librarians are working to create a range of online information tools for both the general public and for healthcare professionals on preventing and treating opioid addiction:

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Opioid Abuse and Addiction Health Topics page on MedlinePlus.
  • Public Libraries: Some public libraries also provide LibGuides or online lists about opioid prevention and treatment resources (especially information on local resources), such as the Westport Library in Westport, CT or the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, MA.

Public librarians, especially those who have to handle actual overdoses and even provide emergency medical treatment, are true heroes in this battle, and all libraries (including academic and medical) can work to provide reliable information to the public and healthcare professionals on prevention and treatment resources for opioid addiction.

Online Health Resources in Amharic

I recently took the class Health and Wellness @ the Library: The Essentials of Providing Consumer Health Services, a free online course available through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), and the final project provided the option to create a “pathfinder” of online health information for a specific audience.  I decided to create a pathfinder to help local library staff, healthcare professionals, and community leaders locate reliable health resources for community members who primarily speak Amharic in Silver Spring, Maryland.  There is a large Ethiopian American community living in the Silver Spring area, many of whom speak Amharic, so I thought this pathfinder would be particularly relevant to my local community.

Amharic-Language Consumer Health Materials (Located through English-Language Websites)

EthnoMed Amharic Resources (https://ethnomed.org/patient-education/amharic): A website from Harborview Medical Center linking to health and cultural information related to immigrant and refugee groups. Browse through a list of Amharic patient education materials, organized alphabetically by title. Linked materials include both documents and videos.  Topics cover a range of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, HIV, and hepatitis, as well as general wellness, women’s health, healthcare communication, and medication safety information.

Health Navigator Amharic Health Information (https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/languages/a/amharic/): A website overseen by the Health Navigator Charitable Trust in New Zealand.  Resources are listed under an alphabetical list of health topics, including important common topics like children’s health, women’s health, mental health, sexual health, oral health, immunizations, accessing healthcare, asthma, diabetes, heart health, and more.  Formats include PDFs and HTML websites.

Health Translations Amharic Resources (http://www.healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcht.nsf/PresentMultilingualResource?Open&x=&s=Amharic): An online directory created by the Victorian Government of Australia to provide consumer health information in multiple languages. Browse through an alphabetical list of health topics to view Amharic health resources related to each topic.  Most resources seem to be in PDF format. Topics with large collections of resources include cancer, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, infections, mental health, and parenting.

HealthReach Amharic Resources (https://healthreach.nlm.nih.gov/searchresults?keywords=&btnsearch=Search&category=1&country=&population=&language=Amharic&format=&user=&records=10): A database of health information in multiple languages from the US National Library of Medicine. Browse through over 60 results, including document, video, and audio resources.  Enter search terms to narrow results by topic.  Resources from toolkits covering a wide range of refugee and immigrant health topics (including “Safe, Smart and Healthy – Keys to Success in Your New Home” series and “Health and Wellbeing” series) are available, as well as patient materials related to bed bugs, women’s health, children’s health, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, and a Zika fact sheet.

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Video about medical care and health insurance in Amharic, located through HealthReach.

King County Information translated in Amharic (http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/languages/amharic.aspx): Translated health materials from King County, WA.  Download videos, posters, handouts, and comic strips in Amharic, organized under topics related to children’s health, communicable diseases, emergency preparedness, and environmental health.

MedlinePlus Health Information in Amharic (amarunya) (https://medlineplus.gov/languages/amharic.html): Consumer health portal from the National Library of Medicine. Browse a list of Amharic resource links (mostly in PDF format) organized under an alphabetical list of health topics, including emergency preparedness, diabetes, tuberculosis, and more.

Minnesota Department of Health Amharic Translated Materials (http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/translation/amharic.html):  Translated health information from the Minnesota Department of Health.  Browse Amharic handouts (available as PDFs) on topics including emergency preparedness, flu, immunizations, prenatal/postpartum depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.

Multicultural Health Communication Amharic Resources (http://www.mhcs.health.nsw.gov.au/publicationsandresources/pdf/language-1/amharic#b_start=0): Database of multilingual health resources from the New South Wales (Australia) Ministry of Health. Browse resources available in Amharic and filter by health topic or resource type (including PDFs, audio, video, or website).  Health topics include women’s health, children’s health, nutrition, and common infectious diseases.

Local Resources

Ethiopian Community Center in Maryland (http://ethioccmd.org/):  An organization located in Silver Spring which provides health information, seminars, workshops, health screenings, and medical referrals to the local Ethiopian community.

Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/gilchrist/): Find links and referrals for immigrants in Montgomery County, including healthcare-related referrals.

Online Health Information for Older Adults – 3 Government Resources

The population of adults over  65 in the US is increasing rapidly, and this growing population has an important need for reliable health information.  According to The State of Aging and Health in America 2013 from the CDC, “two factors—longer life spans and aging baby boomers—will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million.”  Another sobering statistic from the report states “two out of every three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions.”  The bottom line is that more older adults will be seeking health information in the coming years about a variety of chronic conditions, and librarians should be ready.  Librarians aren’t doctors and can’t begin to take the place of healthcare professionals, but we can guide older adults and their caregivers to reliable websites where they can find basic diagnosis and treatment information, which they can use to begin discussions with their physicians.

And if you think older adults don’t use the internet for finding health information online, read this study.  Or this study.

Here are a few of my favorite government websites that share helpful and trustworthy information on a broad variety of health conditions and services targeted towards older adults:

  • NIH Senior Health – This site is extremely user-friendly (with options to enlarge text size and change color contrast for easier readability) and has reliable health information from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), both part of the National Institute of Health (NIH).  Browse or search through health topics and videos with a focus on health conditions important to older adults.  There’s even a great toolkit for trainers to teach older adults how to access reliable health information online.
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Homepage of NIH Senior Health website.
  • National Institute on Aging A-Z Health Topics Index – Browse health topics relevant to older adults, ranging from Advance Directives to Vascular Dementia, and find printable fact sheets, guides, and reports related to these topics.
  • Eldercare Locator – Use this resource from the Administration on Aging to search for local resources (search by zip code or city/state) or find services and information related to topics like Adult Day Program, Alzheimer’s Disease, Behavioral Health, etc.  Online chat and a phone number (1-800-677-1116) are also available to contact.
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Homepage of Eldercare Locator.

A few others to note: CDC Healthy Aging has resources for advance care planning, chronic disease management, emergency preparedness, and more.  LongTermCare.gov has helpful information on planning and paying for long-term care.

 

My 5 Favorite Consumer Health Resources on MedlinePlus

MedlinePlus is, without a doubt, my favorite online consumer health resource.  MedlinePlus is the main consumer health portal created by the National Library of Medicine, and it has strict criteria to ensure that it only links to and publishes reliable, accessible, and high quality health information. The site offers a variety of tools for both the general public and healthcare professionals who work with the public, ranging from a medical encyclopedia to videos and multilingual patient information.

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Homepage of MedinePlus.

Here’s a quick list of my features on MedlinePlus:

  • Health Topics – Currently over 1000 Health Topics pages are available on MedlinePlus, and they cover “symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for over 1000 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues.”  The Health Topics pages include a basic summary about the health condition, followed by an organized list of links to relevant websites related to the condition.  Navigate through the list of links using a menu at the top of the page, with sections on latest news, diagnosis and tests, treatment, genetics, health check tools, clinical trials (links to ClinicalTrials.gov), journal articles (links to PubMed), find an expert, patient handouts, and much more.  The Health Topics pages also link to information on the health topic in multiple languages and related medical encyclopedia articles.
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Health Topics page on skin cancer from MedlinePlus.
  • Drugs and Supplements – Browse lists of generic or brand-name drugs and medical supplements to find information on “side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.”  The pages on individual drugs and supplements include all information on one page (which can be easily printed), in consumer-friendly language.
  • Medical Encyclopedia – Browse through over 4,000 articles from the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia on a broad variety of “diseases, tests, symptoms, injuries, and surgeries.”  The medical encyclopedia pages include links to other related encyclopedia articles and health topics, as well as medical photographs and illustrations.
  • Tutorials on Understanding Medical Words and Evaluating Health Information – The Videos and Tools section of MedlinePlus includes many useful links to health videos, health check tools, and games, but I want to highlight two tutorials available on MedlinePlus which tackle topics important to most people who aren’t healthcare professionals.  The “Understanding Medical Words” tutorial can be used to gain a better understanding of medical terminology and improve communication between patients and doctors, while the “Evaluating Health Information” tutorial teaches viewers how to judge the reliability of information found on health-related websites.
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Interactive tutorial “Understanding Medical Words.”

MedlinePlus has a number of additional features, like the latest health news and links to organizations and directories.  The site is an indispensable resource for the general public and any professional who provides health information to the public, due to its reliability, ease of searching, and wide variety of topics.