EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

Tag Archives: Health Literacy

News, Patient Education, Teaching & Learning in Medicine: October is Health Literacy Month


October is National Medical Librarians Month in the U.S.

The theme for 2010 is Health Literacy

Here is a screenshot of the poster created by Medical Library Association for this event:

Image credit: Medical Library Association – All rights reserved – Copyright 2010

Health science librarians are in a unique position to work with patients and their families who seek current, credible and authoritative medical information in order to learn more about their recent diagnosis, review options for choosing treatments, or to anticipate changes in their lifestyle or living situations after treatment has ended (as examples).

Medical Library Association (MLA), a nonprofit educational organization with 5,000 members worldwide, has devoted time and care over the past decade to develop websites and resource guides specifically targeted at training librarians who provide information services to patients or family members. Their Health Information Literacy page can be viewed at http://www.mlanet.org/resources/healthlit/

One of the larger special interest sections sponsored by MLA is Consumer and Patient Information Section (or CAPHIS). A related program directed by MLA staff is the Consumer Health Information initiative, and in 2007, the association created a formal certificate program in that specialty for information professionals.

Open to everyone on the MLA website are topic pages about educational resources. Here are two examples: Resources for Health Consumers and Deciphering Medspeak which links to medical terminology handouts (in English or Spanish languages), online medical dictionary, a prescription shorthand guide and a list of the “Top Ten Most Useful Medical Websites” for patients.


For those pursuing research on strategies to address Low Health Literacy, Health Disparities or Health of Minority Populations, some valuable step-savers are available on the PubMed Special Queries” which provide links to pre-formulated, highly specific search statements (or search queries) that can be run singly in PubMed or combined with other relevant subject searches.

Below are screenshots from two Special Queries websites: Health Literacy and for Health Disparities & Minority Health Populations


Image credit(s): National Library of Medicine – All rights reserved – Copyright 2010


Other teaching or service organizations that offer patient-centered tutorials, podcasts or written information addressing disparities in health care delivery can be found on this very brief list:

  • From a workshop in 2008 sponsored by Society for General Internal Medicine (SGIM), read a 3-page handout on teaching “Health Literacy for the Clinician Educator“at this link. There are many useful links in the bibliography section of this report.


Finally: In May 2010, a 73-page report detailing a National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy was announced by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Resources, Division of Health Literacy. Following is an excerpt from that HHS website, explaining this public health initiative:

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Limited health literacy affects people of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels, but the impact of limited health literacy disproportionately affects lower socioeconomic and minority groups. “
” It affects people’s ability to search for and use health information, adopt healthy behaviors, and act on important public health alerts. Limited health literacy is also associated with worse health outcomes and higher costs….   ”
” This report contains seven goals that will improve health literacy and suggests strategies for achieving them: Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable ; promote changes in the health care system that improve health information, communication, informed decision-making, and access to health services ; incorporate accurate, standards-based and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in child care and education through the university level ; support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community ; build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies ; increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy and increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions“.
Text Source: http://www.health.gov/communication/HLActionPlan/ – All rights reserved – Copyright 2010

News, Consumer Health: Patient Safety, The Joint Commission and Health Science Libraries

The mission of the Joint Commission is to continuously improve the safety and quality of care provided to the public through the provision of health care accreditation and related services that support performance improvement in health care organizations.

Quote: From the Joint Commission website

For decades, hospital staff and librarians referred to “Jake-O standards” which was shorthand for The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO) – now renamed as the Joint Commission. A notice of a scheduled field review visit from JC has a way of focusing the attention of everyone in the building.

Below is a screenshot of the top portion of the Joint Commission main webpage – to illustrate the many areas of health care facilities standards and administrative guidance that the organization influences:

The Joint Commission


Under the general category of Patient Safety, a new intelligence report (dated Apr 21 2008 ) entitled “One Size Does Not Fit All: Meeting the Health Care Needs of Diverse Populations” has been issued by the Commission. This 60-page report is available to view online, at no cost, from: http://www.jointcommission.org/PatientSafety/HLC/ (PDF link).

Please also see related links from the Joint Commission website regarding:

It is encouraging that the Joint Commission does recognize the contributions that hospital libraries (and librarians) add to the overall success and mission of the health care institutions which it governs.

Published in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association is the current version of “Standards for Hospital Libraries: 2007” (PDF link). Several health science librarians from Connecticut have worked on revisions of these standards since 2002.

News: The Librarian is In… so is the Doctor

“We want children to grow up and set habits and methods of learning that will carry them forward their entire lives. Our entire academic system is predicated on the ability to read fluently. (Without that skill), it’s pretty hard to be successful”.

So said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrics resident at American Family Childrens Hospital, in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Navsaria is also a librarian, having earned a Masters degree in Library Science in 2006 from University of Illinois.

On Oct 18 2007, the local Madison newspaper, The Capital Times, ran this feature article on his efforts to assess literacy and reading skills in his young patients during standard physical exams. Following is an excerpt from the article:

“Dr. Navsaria is working with Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization founded by pediatricians and educators in Boston that promotes the importance of early literacy, with a focus on reaching low-income populations. He has started a Reach Out and Read (ROR) program at University of Wisconsin’s student-run free clinic, MEDiC. A ROR program at the Access Community Health Center on South Park Street, Madision will open in the next two months, if not sooner, Navsaria said. He is also looking for funding to expand the program to two of the outpatient University of Wisconsin Health pediatric clinics”.

(Credit: The Capital Times, 10-18-2007).

For more information Reach Out and Read programs in Connecticut, click here. What a wonderful public health initiative this is!