Health literacy—as well as determining health publications’ efficacy—was at the center of the research and case studies presented in “From Action to Impact: Health Information Professionals Connecting Communities,” a session held August 17 at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ 2016 World Library and Information Congress in Columbus, Ohio.
Librarians from South Africa, Croatia, Sri Lanka, and the United States presented findings from diverse initiatives, campaigns, and studies, mostly focusing on the librarian’s role in facilitating health information for the public and acting as a bridge to professional medical resources.
Praba Naidoo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, presented on a study that examined the connection between librarians, dietitians, and patients affected by Type 2 diabetes. “Information provision is especially important for the management of Type 2 diabetes,” especially for those from “economically disadvantaged communities,” says Naidoo.
The study included qualitative and quantitative data collection, in the form of interviews and questionnaires, and attempted to shed light on the health literacy of patients who received meal guidelines from dietitians. While 77% of patients found the dietitian’s handout helpful, “whether they incorporate the information is questionable,” says Naidoo.
Similarly, Erica Lake, associate librarian from the University of Utah’s Eccles Health Sciences Library, presented on an innovative service that focused on a single disease affecting her community in high numbers: multiple sclerosis (MS). Her team came together from the ILEAD (Innovative Librarians Explore, Lead, and Discover) USA Utah 2015 program, which joined public and academic librarians on initiatives, and created the MS Buddy Project, which lends iPads preloaded with personalized resources to MS patients and their caretakers for 30 days.
The tablet lending program partnered with a local MS Society chapter to identify newly diagnosed users who could benefit from the kits, which also included prepurchased wireless data plans for those who did not have internet at home.
Lake says response to the MS Buddy Project has been overwhelmingly positive, with one participant citing the “knowledge, comfort, and a few apps that I will now always use” as benefits. She also says this project can be scaled for any library anywhere to address different diseases or needs prevalent in different communities.
Dijana Sabolović-Krajina, from the Public Library Fran Galović in Koprivnica, Croatia, had years of programming and data to draw from in presenting the collaboration model her library uses to encourage public access to health information. Inspired by UNESCO campaigns, her library has been actively promoting health literacy since 2008, through partnerships with hospitals, health institutes, nongovernment organizations, and individual health professionals.
One innovative and successful program at Public Library Fran Galović has been “Health Tips under Library Parasols,” where library users and health professionals gather outdoors in summer for conversations and demonstrations geared to preventative medicine and health literacy. Sabolović-Krajina noted that 57 sessions has brought in 1,428 visitors and allowed librarians to become more visible and effective.
Barriers to health literacy were a focus of Kusala Fernando, assistant librarian at the University of Ruhuna in Mahamodara, Sri Lanka. He identified personal, social, and environmental factors at play, including how general illiteracy contributes to health illiteracy.
Fernando sees librarians in a “mediator” role between the public and clinic, and notes that his library has invited patient families in for discussions, hosted counseling programs, and stayed in touch with contacts via social media.
Branching off from the health literacy topic, Mary White, a public health librarian with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, highlighted how bibliometrics can show the research impact of a set of health publications. In US academic settings, where the attitude seems to be “publish or perish,” White’s team wanted to serve the needs of the NC TraCS Institute by showing the value of its publications.
White’s research included two phases: analyzing publication sets with Elsevier’s SciVal tool for such indicators as snowball metrics, benchmarking, and field-weighted citation impact, and performing social network analysis and visualization to pick up on factors such as collaboration, coauthorship, and keyword co-occurrence.
Bibliometrics, White concluded, has huge applications for growth in librarianship and library development.