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Archive for the ‘Healthy Communities’ Category

Public Libraries and Improved Health

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

[Guest post from Deb Clark, Maine State Library]

Check out this radio show interview with Portland Public Library director, Steve Podgajny and Dr. Sam Zager formerly at Maine Medical Center which discusses the findings of the recent HeLPURS study showing a correlation between public library use and improvement in individual health. The HeLPURS radio interview (show #166)  will be streaming on the website at  http://themainemag.com/radio/

This important study demonstrates the value of public libraries in supporting healthy behavior change. It provides an opportunity for our libraries to show their worth to their communities as places which can assist users in their efforts to live healthier lifestyles, another way libraries strengthen their communities. Please take a few moments to listen to the program and think about how your library can provide health information and programming that promotes informed health decision-making and positive health behaviors. Here’s a summary of the study below. The results of the study are currently being prepared for publication.

Pioneering Research by Maine Physician Proves Link Between Public Library Use And Tobacco Cessation In Study Done In Collaboration With Portland Public Library

In 2010, a highly regarded group of physicians, brain scientists, social scientists, and other experts went on record with their expert opinion that public libraries likely promote health. One Maine physician has just completed the first-ever direct and broad research on the topic – and proved their instincts were on the right track.

Maine physician Dr. Sam Zager was the driving force behind the Health and Libraries of Public Use Retrospective Study (HeLPURS), the first broad investigation of health and public libraries. The study investigated whether a link between library use and health could be quantifiably established. Dr. Zager’s interest in the intersection of health and public library use grew out of his involvement in library advocacy efforts in Boston several years ago. He noticed that the prior research into health and libraries was sparse and narrowly focused on health literacy. No studies existed to determine the relationship between library use and individuals’ health profiles.

HeLPURS research was made possible through a collaboration with Portland Public Library, spearheaded by PPL’s Health and Institutional Research Teams and funded by a generous grant from the Anne Randolph Henry Charitable Foundation. Study participants were recruited from among a large pool of adult Maine Medical Center Family Medicine patients. Participants who were also PPL card holders granted permission for the Library to release information on frequency of their library use for correlation by Dr. Zager and his colleagues with their medical histories. Throughout the study, all privacy laws and human research ethics protocols as well as PPL privacy policies were strictly observed, and no personal borrowing history was ever queried.

The project results provide evidence that public library use has quantifiable associations with health, particularly in the areas of substance abuse and depression-anxiety disorders. The most dramatic finding is that moderate or higher use of public libraries is associated with tobacco cessation. Individuals who have ever been smokers and who used the library at least moderately – seven or more items checked out per active year – were nearly three times more likely to have successfully quit smoking, compared with smokers who used the library less.

“HeLPURS offers the first direct evidence that public libraries could be health-promoting spaces,” Zager says, “This was out-of-the-box thinking, but now these results beg for further research. The current findings also have important implications when estimating return on investment in public libraries in Maine and across the country.”

Zager’s sentiments are echoed by PPL Executive Director Steve Podgajny. “What the HeLPURS study does,” Podgajny observes, “is to clinically isolate a specific and very important health relationship that public libraries have with individuals and the community as a whole. The study has many ramifications one of which is how public libraries might serve more effectively as a vehicle for public health funding and goals.”

About Dr. Zager

Dr. Sam Zager is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who holds an MD from Harvard University and an M.Phil. in Economic and Social History from Oxford University. His presentation on HeLPURS won top prize at the Maine Academy of Family Physicians Annual Conference last month. Dr. Zager has been a Family Medicine Resident Physician at Maine Medical Center since 2011, and he will begin practicing Family Medicine with Martin’s Point Healthcare starting in September 2014.

Post Contributed by:

Deborah A. Clark, Consultant

Southern Maine Library District

Portland Public Library

E-mail: deborah.clark@maine.gov

 

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Webinar

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

If you missed the CMS webinar, we invite you to view the recording:

Got Coverage? Need Coverage? Getting Health Insurance During the Open Enrollment Period / October 2014 (Recording | Presentation (PDF))

Presenter: Jennifer Syria, Health Insurance Specialist, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Boston Regional Office
Summary: During the next few months, millions of Americans will need to decide how they would like to receive their health care coverage in 2015. This webinar will focus on the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Period and review the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. Discussion will include important information regarding the types of notices individuals will receive, consumer messaging, and the ways libraries can help inform individuals of their health care options. This webinar will provide valuable information for libraries in both the Middle Atlantic and New England Regions. 

New Version of MedlinePlus Mobile

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

[NLM Announcement]

Today, MedlinePlus released new versions of the MedlinePlus Mobile sites in English and Spanish. The mobile site URLs are http://m.medlineplus.gov and http://m.medlineplus.gov/espanol.

Like the original versions of the mobile sites, the redesigned sites are optimized for mobile phones and tablets.  Unlike the original mobile sites that contained only a subset of the information available on MedlinePlus, the new sites have all of the content found on MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español.  They also have an improved design for easier use on mobile devices.

The key features of the redesigned mobile sites are:

Access to all the content available on MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español . Improved navigation using “Menu” and “Search” menus to access search and major areas of the sites . Enhanced page navigation with the ability to open and close sections within pages . Updated look and feel with a refreshed design

This new version of MedlinePlus Mobile is the first step in redesigning MedlinePlus and MedlinePlus en español to behave responsively.  Responsively designed Web sites automatically change their layouts to fit the screen of the device on which they are viewed, whether that is a desktop monitor or a mobile touchscreen.

In 2015, the MedlinePlus team will release a fully responsive version of MedlinePlus to provide a consistent user experience from the desktop, tablet, or phone. This will remove the need for a separate mobile site. Users will then have one destination for MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov) when using any device.

Until then, try out this first offering of MedlinePlus’s responsive design on your smartphone at http://m.medlineplus.gov and http://m.medlineplus.gov/espanol. Send us your feedback and comments about the new site via the Contact Us link that appears on every page.

Announcement from:

Stephanie Narva Dennis, MLS
Head, Health Information Products Unit
http://MedlinePlus.gov – Trusted Health Information for You National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
301-435-4898  | Stephanie.Dennis@nih.gov

Elegantly Simple Evaluation

Friday, September 19th, 2014

The NER’s Health Literacy COI was featured in the OERC’s blog:

Elegantly Simple Evaluation: Documenting Outcomes of a New England Health Literacy Project

For an example of an elegantly simple program evaluation that yielded great results, check out an article by Michelle Eberle and colleagues in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine New England Region, which appeared in the August 2014 edition of MLA News . The article describes the region’s Clear: Conversationsproject, a collaboration among five organizations in which librarians and health professionals taught health literacy skills to patients. This innovative project, originated by Health Care Missouri, featured role-plays of patients in which they practice good patient communication skills during a visit to a health care provider (played by volunteers from various health professions).

This project shows that a few relatively simple evaluation activities can clearly show the positive outcomes of a project. For example, after their role-play, participants gave high ratings to their satisfaction with the information they received during their “doctor visit.”   When completing the multi-session program, a strong majority said the program improved their comfort with employing effective communication techniques with their own health care providers. More than half of respondents completing the second questionnaire described specific actions they intended to use in future visits to health care providers. Also, the health professional role-players provided their own feedback about how their experiences would affect their own interactions with patients.

The evaluation methods used for the Clear: Conversations project were fairly simple, but well-planned. Eberle and her colleagues developed their evaluation methods in the project planning stage and consulted with the NN/LM OERC on method design. As a result, the team was able to collect information that clearly demonstrated, both to themselves and others, the value of their project.

The OERC would like to highlight more examples of evaluations that are both effective and relatively easy to implement.  If you know of other projects that we can showcase in our Elegantly Simple Evaluation series, please contact Cindy Olney at olneyc@uw.edu.

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