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Health Literacy Kansas and Your Library

Health Literacy Kansas and Your Library

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Published by Gwen Lehman
Health literacy is not simply the ability to read. It is "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." Learn what your library is probably already doing to support health literacy and how Health Literacy Kansas and other organizations are working to promote this issue. Take a dozen ideas to help your customers increase their health literacy skills.

Presented at the 2013 Kansas Library Conference by Lissa Staley
Health literacy is not simply the ability to read. It is "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." Learn what your library is probably already doing to support health literacy and how Health Literacy Kansas and other organizations are working to promote this issue. Take a dozen ideas to help your customers increase their health literacy skills.

Presented at the 2013 Kansas Library Conference by Lissa Staley

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Published by: Gwen Lehman on Oct 19, 2013
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Practical ways to promote health literacy in yourlibrary
Lissa Staley, Health Information Librarian, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, estaley@tscpl.org
Understand what Health Literacy means
Health Literacy is defined in the Institute of Medicine report,Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion,as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic healthinformation and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."Health literacy is not simply the ability to read. It requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytical, anddecision-making skills, and the ability to apply these skills to health situations. For example, it includes theability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical educationbrochures, doctor's directions and consent forms, and the ability to negotiate complex health care systems.From: http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html
Empower your staff to teach customers MedlinePlus
One of the first things I did in my role as Health Information Librarian was get permission for library staff toprint up to 10 pages of free printing for customers with health questions, as long as they were using
MedlinePlus to find the information. Books are great, don’t get me wrong, but
the value of allowing thecustomer to leave the library holding a few pages of information that are reliable and readable is worth morethan we would be spending on the free printouts.I taught 1-hour classes to our service desk staff on using MedlinePlus effectively, why not to use WebMD(corporate advertising drives content), and how answering a health reference question is different fromoffering health advice.
Offer your library space/advertising to local health groups to offer informativeprogramming
The Alzheimer’s Association brings their
outreach program to our library each year,providing their 6-week caregiver supportprogram in one of our public meeting rooms.We get to promote the library materials thatsupport caregivers. They might not take time tovisit the library otherwise to learn about theservices that might support them and enrichtheir lives.
 
Know your health resources, and know how to promote them to customers
At a public library, you will likely own many popular health books that are NOT based on evidence-basedmedicine and may actually not be trustworthy information; but, they are bestsellers with long waiting lists.Popular does not equal reliable though, so as an information professional, you should know where to directcustomers and how to help them find the information they need. While some customers may ask for ab
estseller by title, those who want “good” information on a health topic can be taught and helped to evaluate
the books or websites or articles from subscription databases.I like this list for reviewing skills for evaluating health websites: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/webresources
Why I lovestartingcustomersonMedlinePlus morethansubscriptiondatabases like Consumer Health Complete
Article databases give a list of results, which you can sort and limitdifferent ways, but are essentially still an unorganized list of results. MedlinePlus curates and organizes a set of trustworthyresources that are designed to help people learn more about atopic without being overwhelmed or confused. In thesescreenshots of the basic results from a search on sleep apnea, Consumer Health Complete gives 1706 results,
but in the first 10 articles, only one is written for consumers, and it is an article from Men’s Health about
howsleepapneaaffectsathletesand sexualperformance.
 
Use displays to reinforce public health messages
Libraries don’t have many adult
-level book-length materials on public health topics like toothbrushing, flushots, child passenger safety, summer safety, mosquito-born illness, skin cancer prevention and carbonmonoxide safety. And yet the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has identified many of thesetopics as important public health topics to promote. Partnering with KDHE to use displays in the library helpsraise awareness of these messages in a visually interesting way.As part of national Poison Prevention Week, the Topeka and Shawnee County PublicLibrary partnered withKansas Department of Health and EnvironmentandSafe Kids Kansas
to create a Poison Purse display in the library’s
Health InformationNeighborhood, showing how medicines and candies look identical to a child in searchof something sweet to eat.http://tscpl.org/health-information/toxins-at-home-and-the-poison-purse/The Topeka and Shawnee CountyPublic Library partnered withOralHealth Kansas to create a display nearthe Kids Library that asks people toconsider how much sugar is in theirdrink. Free handouts includingHealthyEating for a Healthy Mouthandtoothbrushing tips were provided next to the display.http://tscpl.org/health-information/whats-in-your-drink-display-educates-about-sugary-drinks-and-toothbrushing/
Order free pamphlets for some trustworthy take-home materials
Some quality pamphlets that are popular with our customers come from:
 
http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publicationIncludes AgePage pamphlets on many topics, Go4Life exercise, and topical fact sheets
 
https://pubs.cancer.gov/ncipl/Cancer resources (you are limited to ordering 20 at a time) including booklets for coping with cancer,prevention and treatments.Display them alongside books on the same topic to give people a brief overview of key topics that they canfreely take home or give to a friend.
Promote Healthcare.gov
Providing accurate information on the Affordable Care Act isa straightforward health literacy issue, not a politicalstatement. Train your staff to direct customers tohealthcare.gov for information on the Health InsuranceMarketplace and learn how to locate the trained Navigatorsin your county. See what TSPCL is doing athttp://www.tscpl.org/marketplace

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