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Pew Internet’s Tracking Health Report

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s latest report, “Tracking for Health” explores how people track health indicators or symptoms, such as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches or sleep patterns. The findings show that tracking health is a powerful way to take charge of managing one’s health. Key findings of the report include:

  • Seven in ten US adults track a health indicator for themselves or for a loved one.
  • People living with chronic conditions are significantly more likely to track a health indicator or symptom.
  • Tracking on paper, spreadsheet, mobile device – or just “in their heads”
  • One in two trackers say they keep track of progress “in their heads”
  • One in three trackers say they track the data on paper, like in a notebook or journal.
  • One in five trackers say they use some form of technology to track their health data.
  • People with more serious health concerns take their tracking more seriously
  • Half of all trackers update their record or notes only occasionally and most do not share their data with anyone else.
  • Tracking can affect someone’s overall approach to health.
  • Tracking has had a more significant impact on people living with chronic conditions.

The report identifies that trackers are more likely to ask questions at their health visits. Encouraging patients to jot down their concerns and questions before health visits is a standard health literacy technique. The AHRQ’s Questions are the Answer, NSPF AskMe3, and Health Literacy Missouri’s Clear Conversations are three different approaches to the same technique. What if providers gave patients mini-notebooks with a mini-pencil to track their health — the way the dentist gives you a toothbrush and dental floss? And, also recommended the top tracking apps and sites?

The report identifies the percentage of adults who track the following:

  • 60% track weight, diet, or exercise routine
  • 33% track any other health indicators like blood pressure, sleep patterns, headaches, etc
  • 12% track any health indicators for a loved one
  • 69% total who track any health indicator for themselves or others

Monitoring diet and exercise is recognized as a common characteristic of individuals who lost weight and kept it off over time. ( Hopefully, the results of this report will encourage more people (myself included!) to take better care of our health and start journaling in notebook, website, or app! Whether it is a notebook, a sheet of paper, a website, or app, the report shows – tracking helps! It has the potential to affect your overall approach to maintaining your health or the health of a loved one.

What does this report mean for librarians? Let’s add more resources to our collections to help patients track their health. Purchase consumer health books that include journals/trackers. Link to resources like MedlinePlus Health Check Tools and identify the best health apps and mobile sites for “trackers.” Hospital librarians can share the top journal and tracking resources with patient educators. I wondered why the report showed such limited use of the web for tracking, when so many people are using the web for health information. Results showed only one percent used a website tracking tool. Perhaps lack of trust with the web discourages online health tracking. Librarians can share health check sites with patients that protect their confidentiality and privacy.

Or, perhaps people just don’t know where to find them. MedlinePlus is a great source for free online health trackers. Take a look at the MedlinePlus Health Check Tools page, which include the trackers listed below and many others:

My thanks to Susannah Fox for sharing this report with me and my colleague Myrna Morales for connecting me with Susannah.

-Michelle Eberle, Consumer Health Information Coordinator


NCBI and Browser Support

Friday, January 4th, 2013

There will be changes to supported browsers for NCBI Web pages, effective 1 January 2013:

Creative Ideas in Health Information Outreach Webinar

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Date: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Time: 2 PM
Earn 1 MLA CE unit

Come learn creative ideas for health information outreach projects. Guest speakers include: Irena Bond from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Margot Malachowski from the Baystate Medical Center, Elsie Flemings from the Healthy Acadia Healthy Maine Partnership and Manuela Raposo from the Dorcas Place Welcome Back Center. Our guest speakers will share stories from their health information outreach projects. You will learn tips to plan your project, apply for funding, identify community partners, foster collaborations, integrate assessment and evaluation into your project, cope with barriers, increase community support and sustain your project.

Register on the NN/LM NER training calendar.

This program is sponsored by the Healthy Communities, Community of Interest.

A Librarian’s Guide to NCBI

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Send in Your Application to Participate in a New Bioinformatics Training Course: “A Librarian’s Guide to NCBI”

In sponsored partnership, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) National Library of Medicine Training Center (NTC), are pleased to invite participation of health sciences librarians in a new bioinformatics training course: “A Librarian’s Guide to NCBI.” Instructors will be NCBI staff and Diane Rein, Ph.D., MLS, Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology Liaison from the Health Science Library, University at Buffalo.
The course provides basic knowledge and skills for librarians interested in helping patrons use online molecular databases and tools from the NCBI. Attending this course will improve your ability to initiate bioinformatics services at your institution and/or extend current initiatives. Prior knowledge of molecular biology and genetics is not required. Participants who complete the class will be eligible for MLA Continuing Education credits. The course is free but travel costs are at the expense of the participant.

There are two parts to the course and applicants must take both parts:

• Part 1: “Fundamentals in Bioinformatics and Searching,” a three week, online, (asynchronous) self-paced pre-course, March 4-18, 2013.
The aim is to provide, from a librarian’s professional perspective, the fundamental knowledge and background information necessary for the subsequent, more intensive, hands-on second portion of the course onsite at NCBI. Bioinformatics will be introduced both as a discipline and as a research practice. Select NCBI databases, tools (including search tools) and bioinformatics records will be previewed. A beginning working knowledge of the necessary molecular biology vocabulary necessary to enable successful NCBI searches will be developed.

• Part 2: A 5-day in-person course offered on-site at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, April 15th-19th, 2013.
Topics will include using the BLAST sequence similarity search and Entrez text search systems to find relevant data. This portion of A Librarian’s Guide to NCBI describes the various kinds of molecular data available, and explains how these are generated and used in modern biomedical research.
Applications are open to health science librarians in the United States. Applications will be accepted from librarians currently providing bioinformatics services as well as from those desiring to implement services. The application deadline is January 25, 2013. Applicants will need to fill out the application form, submit a supervisor letter of support form, and provide a curriculum vitae (CV). Applicants will be notified of acceptance on or about February 15, 2013.

Please view the application form at: The course page with additional information is at:
Please direct any questions to:

[From NLM Technical Bulletin, Dec 13, 2012]

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