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Express Outreach Award Highlights: Outreach to Students through College Health Services – Pacific Islanders Pilots

by Paul B. Drake
User Services & Document Delivery Librarian
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library, University of Guam
Mangilao, Guam

College students are at a time in life when habits are developed, and decisions are made that affect the direction and quality of their lives. Knowledge of accurate and reliable sources of health information is vital.

With funding from a 2012/2013 NN/LM PSR Express Outreach Award, I conducted pilot projects at five colleges in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands, to create collaborative partnerships and develop a consumer health outreach program to Pacific Islander students. These colleges are in two U.S. territories and two independent countries. The target population has basic English proficiency, but health literacy is low. A goal of the project was to provide students and college library personnel and faculty with knowledge of quality health information resources.

Due to a lack of college health services at some colleges, partnerships between the college library and another college entity were fostered, to develop strategies that would provide a select group of college students with consumer health resources, primarily MedlinePlus. Library and collaboration personnel were given sessions on professional health resources, e.g., PubMed and NCBI, to enable them to better provide reliable health information. Project activities spanned a vast area, involving 19 flights and 20,187 miles! The following five sites were included:

  • Pilot Project 1: University of Guam, US Territory of Guam, September-November 2012
  • Pilot Project 2: American Samoa Community College, US Territory of American Samoa, February 2013
  • Pilot Project 3: College of Micronesia, FSM Chuuk State Campus, Federated States of Micronesia, February 2013
  • Pilot Project 4: College of the Marshall Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, March 2013
  • Pilot Project 5: College of Micronesia, FSM National Campus (on Pohnpei), Federated States of Micronesia, April 2013

Consumer health presentation at COM-FSM Chuuk State Faculty/Staff Development DAy

A major project goal was to develop collaborations. The project manager did not know two of the library directors nor any of the collaborating partners. It took time to develop relationships for the pilot projects, but they were achieved at each college. This provides a foundation for future collaborations and partnerships! Each college made the schedule of presentations, set its own priorities, and determined the Healthy People 2020 topics to be incorporated. At the College of Micronesia Chuuk State Campus, a consumer health presentation was arranged for its Faculty & Staff Development Day, with 47 attendees. The College of the Marshall Islands arranged two professional resources presentations with 35 professional staff at the Majuro Hospital.

Prior to the project, there had been little knowledge or use of MedlinePlus or PubMed. Assessment surveys after the presentations indicated that 59% of the students and 46% of the professionals would greatly increase their use of MedlinePlus, and an additional 34% of students and 41% of professionals expected their use of MedlinePlus to increase somewhat. The assessment results also indicated that 86% of the students expected to share the information from the presentation with family and friends.

Consumer health presentation to a nursing class at American Samoa Community College

Feedback indicated an appreciation of the pilot project presentations and the need for further presentations to more students, and expanding to include local public health and hospital personnel, and the local community. The desperate need for consumer health materials in local languages was mentioned repeatedly. If this need can be addressed, valuable resources would be available to Pacific Islanders whether they reside on their home islands or on the U.S. mainland. On a personal note, I found immense personal and professional reward in conducting this outreach project. I was able to learn first-hand what is of value to others working in the region, while making important connections to start new relationships. And I had many opportunities to listen and learn!

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