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Archive for August, 2009

What’s New with

Monday, August 31st, 2009

MedlinePlus (, the authoritative online consumer health resource from the National Library of Medicine, has many great new features to help you locate appropriate materials that meet the unique needs of your community. The latest addition to MedlinePlus is the MedlinePlus4You Twitter feed. The site, which debuted in 1998 with 22 health topics, now boasts over 800 health topics and many new enhancements:

A New Look for the Medical Encyclopedia

The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a new look and feel. The changes in structure and layout are designed to enhance the usability of the article pages and set the stage for new features that will be added to the Medical Encyclopedia at a later date. These design enhancements do not correspond to any change in the content of the Medical Encyclopedia content. 

Enhanced Searching

MedlinePlus has new search capabilities to improve your searches. Results now have relevancy rankings and are sorted into two subsets: collections and clusters. “Collections” help you narrow your search by displaying results in 7 content areas. “Clusters” organize your search results into groups based on the most frequent words in the top 200 results. The “remix” button displays the next cluster. You can target your search with phrase searching and Boolean logic. “AND” is the default operator, for everything else use OR, NOT, -, +, and the wildcard *. MedlinePlus was designed to be user friendly, providing a variety of search mechanisms to meet different search styles. Many elements are repeated throughout the site helping users learn to search quickly.

SEARCH TIP: Do you want to know what the hot topics are in MedlinePlus? Just click on the Search Cloud link on the lower right sidebar from the homepage—this displays the top 100 search terms entered into the MedlinePlus search box. The cloud is updated every weekday, with results appearing in alphabetical order and the larger the text size, the more often the term has been searched. Place your cursor over the search term to find out the exact ranking.

Multiple Language Resources

It’s easy to find Spanish language materials with the convenient español toggle tab. This tab is located on the upper right side of every page. MedlinePlus is a robust site in English and Spanish, but did you know it also has consumer health information in 47 other languages? Just click on the lower left sidebar from the MedlinePlus homepage and explore. You can search by health topic, or by a specific language.

SEARCH TIP: Not finding the Spanish language information you need? Start your search in English and click on the first result, which should be the health topic. Toggle to the español site and view the Spanish term for your English-generated search. For example, searching “heart attack” in the Spanish site will yield non-relevant results. By starting the search in English and toggling to Spanish, you will learn the term in Spanish is “ataque al corazón.” Performing the search with these terms in the español site will yield numerous relevant results.

Health Literacy Materials

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, understand and act on verbal or written health information. Low literacy and low health literacy often go hand in hand, but don’t be fooled by someone’s outward appearance or perceived educational level. It is still possible to be highly educated and have low health literacy. MedlinePlus has useful materials for users who need easier reading level materials—these are marked with an Easy to Read notation. The interactive tutorials are designed for all consumers regardless of their education level, ability, or familiarity with computers. Physicians, nurses and healthcare providers practicing in the United States write the content. The modules do not have advertising, nor do they contain information that might bias the patient’s decision-making process. It is designed for 6th grade readability and can be located from the upper right sidebar from the MedlinePlus homepage. Search the medical encyclopedia and toggle to the español site for images with Spanish content. There are even a few surgery videos available in Spanish.

SEARCH TIP: A quick way to find all the health literacy materials is from the main health topics page. Click on Health Topics, and then look for the colored bar in the lower right corner of the page.


Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Over recent years, we’ve received a fair number of technical support calls from NER members. At first glance, it would seem logical to categorize support calls by the NLM resource.  A more instructive approach, however, would probably be to take a closer view of the broader technical issues. When PubMed and DOCLINE users encounter errors, many immediately assume that the problem is centralized in Bethesda (i.e., NLM) when in fact, the problem often lies with local network or local desktop issues.

To reduce the incidence of “local” issues in the future, users may want to consider the following:

1. When accessing NLM applications (such as PubMed, DOCLINE, etc.), make sure your workstation is set up to accept “cookies”.

2. If there’s an unexpected occurrence in the display of screens while in PubMed or DOCLINE, make sure that workstation cache has been cleared.

[ NOTE: When clearing workstation cache, do not delete those “cookies” needed by DOCLINE.]

3. After clearing cache, if the technical problem recurs, write down the steps you took and report your problem either to the NER or to NLM Customer Service.

More information related to enabling cookies or clearing cache may be found below:

Enabling cookies (using Internet Explorer):

Enabling cookies (using Firefox):

Clearing cache:

Several useful definitions on the subject:


Cache is a temporary storage area on a user’s computer where frequently accessed data is rapid ready for immediate use so that re-computing original data is not required.  Cache should be refreshed routinely.

Clearing cache on your web browser may improve web page downloading time and overall performance while accessing databases on the web.


A “cookie” is information sent by a website server to the user’s workstation while they are connected to that site. Cookies store information about user interactions that may be needed later for the system to perform a function.

Most browsers allow users to decide whether or not to accept cookies, as well as the time frame in which to maintain them. Some websites may become unusable when a user decides to reject cookies.

Example: the automatic login functionality found  in ILL management systems depend on the use of cookies and will not work if cookies are disabled.


Connectivity involves the transport of data between two points (from server to workstation, server to server, etc.)

To increase your computer’s connectivity to the web, remember to:

  1. Clear workstation cache from time to time. This will enhance your workstation’s performance with web-based applications (like PubMed and DOCLINE); and
  2. Maintain cookies on your computer, so that your computer is instantly recognized by NLM.

Biosytems-A New NCBI Resource

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

There are many resources available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Recently a new Database called Biosystems was added. Biosystems is an Entrez database that collects information on interacting sets of biomolecules involved in metabolic and signaling pathways, disease states, and other biological processes. (more…)

Chinese Anti-Malaria Posters Online Exhibit

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division has mounted an online exhibit, Chinese Anti-Malaria Posters, available at

This exhibit represents the work of Chinese public health historian Dr. Liping Bu, who has been in residence at the History of Medicine Division for the summer. Roxanne Beatty did the work of preparing the on-line exhibit.

Malaria control in modern China was a resounding success. According to the exhibition introduction, “In 1998, there were 31 thousand malaria cases in China, with a morbidity of 0.25 per ten thousand, a drop of 99% compared to 1954.” The great reduction in disease was due to concentrated and coordinated programs in public health control and prevention. The exhibit’s gallery of images presents classic posters, from the early 1950s through the early 1970s, at the peak of the campaign.

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