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Consumer Health in Diverse Cultures & Communities: a course for the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River program

In June 2007, Kay Deeney and Kelli Ham went off to the wilds of Tucson, Arizona, to teach a course in the School of Information Resources & Library Science (SIRLS) at the University of Arizona called, Consumer Health in Diverse Cultures & Communities.

In 2005, the University of Arizona SIRLS received IMLS grant funding (through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program) for a Knowledge River initiative. Knowledge River is a center for the study of information resources and technology issues related to American Indians and Hispanics.

Part of this initiative involves the bringing together of 12 Scholars from Knowledge River and 24 Native American and Hispanic high school students in a Teen Community Health Information Institute, providing an opportunity for the high school students to explore health sciences librarianship and helping(or help) them promote health literacy/healthy behaviors among their peers.

Knowledge River Scholars Photo

To assist the library school students in preparing for their role in the Institute, NN/LM PSR Regional Network Office provided two instructors, Kay and Kelli, (including costs of materials and travel) who planned, designed and taught an academic 3-unit intensive course in both 2006 and 2007 to introduce concepts and skills related to providing consumer health information.

Kay and Kelli’s course focused on health information needs of Native American and Hispanic communities and of adolescents. The NLM databases they covered were MedlinePlus, PubMed, Genetics Home Reference, Household Products Database, NIHSeniorHealth, ToxTown, and ToxMap. Some other databases and websites covered were the Native Health databases, Ethnic News Watch, Expanded Academic Index, American FactFinder, the Gale Health & Wellness Resource Center and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Also included were evaluating websites, health literacy, the reference interview and critical thinking. This intensive academic course was taught in 6 full days over three weeks. They also included a special distance-learning day this year!

One of the highlights of this year’s course was a videoconference with high school students from ¡Viva! Vital Information for a Virtual Age: A Peer Tutor Project of the South Texas Independent School District. This is a high school-based program conducted under the guidance of the librarians and supportive faculty in Mercedes, Texas.

Kay and Kelli invited several guest lecturers and panelists to participate in the course. Invited guest lecturers and panelists were Pat Auflick, Richard Chabran, Norma Corral, Cathy Jacobus, Jeanette Ryan, Annabelle Nuñez, and Rebecca Swift. Local librarians were also recruited as volunteers for one on one interviews. They were Bill Azevedo, Marni Dittmar, Jacque Doyle, Lynn Flance, Sol Gomez, Mary Riordan, and Diana Stirling.

Knowledge River Photo
Left to Right: Kay Deeney (instructor), Norma Corral and Richard Chabran.
Chabran is also a member of NLM’s Board of Regents.

Some comments from the students were:

  • “Everything I learned in this class was very valuable. I will be able to take what I have acquired and directly link and use it now and in my future library career. I now have a sense of what resources are available to me and how to use them.”
  • “The role play exercises because it gave me more reference practice.”

When asked what they will do differently as a result of attending this course, the students replied:

  • “I have really learned how to evaluate a website and whether or not it is providing correct, current and valid information . . . In my future career I will use this skill in obtaining information for myself or for a patron.”
  • “I am ready to go out to the field and implement some of the things we learned during this course. I want to become a children’s librarian, so I am already planning how to introduce them to consumer health information.”
  • “Even though I do not plan on being either a reference or medical librarian, knowledge and manipulation of database structures and reference knowledge are always good skills to have.”

For more information about this course, contact Kay Deeney , NN/LM PSR Education Coordinator, or Kelli Ham, NN/LM PSR Consumer Health Coordinator.

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