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SEA Insights: Meeting Local Health Literacy Needs with NNLM Funding Support: University of Virginia Health Sciences Library Outreach in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A

Class Details

Presenters: Lydia Witman, MLIS

Abstract: “Meeting Local Health Literacy Needs with NNLM Funding Support: University of Virginia Health Sciences Library Outreach in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A.” describes our experience, including successes and challenges, of recently completed collaborative work. The University of Virginia (UVA) Health Sciences Library received two Health Information Outreach awards from NNLM SEA, located at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Over the span of 1.5 years, UVA partnered with local and regional non-profit and public organizations to create new or enhanced health literacy programming and services in the local health district. The grants were administered and partnerships developed by Lydia Witman, a UVA medical librarian who is a health literacy advocate and consumer health specialist, and who manages the hospital’s Patient & Family Library. Local partner organizations included the city’s mental health and wellness coalition, the regional public library system, and more.

The librarian was able to support the needs of the community by helping community-based organizations identify their own needs and formulate their own solutions. Not only were organizations educated about what health literacy is and how it affects health outcomes and well-being, they were also given grant funds to complete health literacy-related work with the populations they serve. Instead of creating a prefabricated program, service, or learning experience, the librarian listened to the needs of each organization and helped them formulate their own plans. Providing contacts and connections was also valuable; for example, one organization working with refugees and other vulnerable populations wanted to focus on creating Arabic and Spanish language translations of some of their print material; the librarian was able to provide a list of recommended translation vendors for health-related documents.

The librarian was able to steer organizations toward ideal practices such as including members of the intended audience in the planning and design phases, and assessing the success of interventions.

Presenter Bio: Lydia Witman, MLIS, is a medical librarian specializing in consumer health information and health literacy. She currently manages the Patient & Family Library service at the UVA Health System, and chairs the health system’s Health Literacy Workgroup, a subset of the larger Patient & Family Education Committee. Over the past 10 years working in hospitals and health systems, she has educated hundreds of health care providers and staff about the importance of clear communication, and helped raised awareness about health literacy. Recently, she received two grants from the NLM/NNLM for community-based health literacy interventions in partnership with local and regional non-profit and public service organizations. She is exploring the possibility of research into outcomes associated with “Information Prescription” orders placed by clinicians at the bedside.

Thursday, December 6, 2018
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Region/Office: National
Dec 6, 2018
2:00PM - 3:00PM ET
Aimee Gogan, MLIS, AHIP, Data & Evaluation Coordinator

SEA Insights is a webinar series in which network members within the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Southeastern/Atlantic (SEA) region have an opportunity to engage with Regional Medical Library staff. Topics will cover a range of interests specific to Network Members and NLM and NNLM Initiatives and projects.


  • Collaborate on National Library of Medicine (NLM) and NNLM initiatives and projects.
  • Exchange experiences related to current or upcoming activities and projects of the NNLM SEA staff.
  • Share expertise with network members to support each other and improve health information access.