Debra Rand, MS , AHIP , Associate Dean for Library Services, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine
Saori Wendy Herman, MLIS , AHIP , Education and Liaison Librarian, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School
School of Medicine Project
The Health Sciences Library staff at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine is committed to supporting health education, and in particular, effective searching for consumer health information on the Web. The library received an Outreach Award from the National Network of Libraries, National Library of Medicine in 2013 in which one of the goals is to disseminate information and teach workshops on consumer health education resources. The Outreach Award is a partnership between the Health Sciences Library, the students in the community service club Healthy Habits Project at the School of Medicine, and the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District (POBCSD). The goals of the project include consumer health education and mentoring of school district students in potential health careers.[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]” T here are plans to expand on these educational activities as a model for future health education projects with other local school districts.”[/quote]
As part of the Outreach Award, the library staff, medical students and staff at the POBSCD planned and held a Health Education Fair at the Mattlin Middle School in Plainview. Librarians from both the School of Medicine and North Shore-LIJ Health System provided information about the National Library of Medicine databases MedlinePlus and the Genetics Home Reference. The medical students created activities and distributed information about a broad spectrum of health and wellness topics, including sun safety, nutrition labels and healthy eating, signs of stroke and heart attack, adolescent health, sports-related concussion, and when to call for emergency services. The information tables were staffed by medical students representing their special interests, such as the Oncology Club, Internal Medicine Club, AMA (American Medical Association) Club, Neurology Club, Emergency Medicine Club, and Wilderness Club. One popular activity was an exercise with laparoscopic surgical tools and iPads that allowed students to practice their hand-eye coordination skills – a necessary skill for expert surgeons. This same exercise was an earlier course activity for the medical students and is also utilized by doctors in training at hospitals. Clinical staff from the North Shore-LIJ Health System also participated in the Health Education Fair. Additional activities and support were provided by the ShopRite of Plainview and the Mid-Island Y JCC.
In addition to the Health Education Fair, the School of Medicine librarians conducted workshops with the POBCSD school nurses, health education staff, and library staff. Topics covered during the workshops included MedlinePlus, Genetics Home Reference, Household Products Database, Tox Town, efficient searching of PubMed (the National Library of Medicine’s database of life science and biomedical literature), and how to locate the full text of articles retrieved in a literature search.
As a companion piece to the workshops and Health Education Fair, an online subject guide was created by the librarians to provide centralized access to trusted websites for consumer health education and health careers from the National Library of Medicine, other government agencies and professional medical organizations. The subject guide, still a work in progress, will include links to educational materials created by the medical students and will result in a lasting resource for both the medical school and the school district. The subject guide is anticipated to become publicly available and will be continually updated.
To further the goal of mentoring high school students for careers in health sciences professions, site visits are scheduled at the Center for Emergency Medical Services and the Center for Learning and Innovation at the North Shore-LIJ Health System. There are plans to expand on these educational activities as a model for future health education projects with other local school districts.
The resources in the following section are a sample of what’s been covered by the School of Medicine librarians during the workshops with the POBCSD school nurses, health education staff, and library staff.
Finding Reliable Health Information on the Web
A close relative tells you that he has recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. You’ve heard of the disease but don’t know much about it. As a result, you want to find a clear, accurate and reliable overview of the symptoms, treatments, nutritional issues, latest research and/or possible clinical trials, and coping mechanisms for the disease. You’re also interested to see if there are any hereditary concerns associated with Crohn’s disease. Where do you begin your search to find reliable health information that addresses these topics and is easy to read and understand?
A good place to begin your exploration is MedlinePlus, a website for trusted health information compiled by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. According to the site’s About page:
MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health’s Web site for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it brings you information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand. MedlinePlus offers reliable, up-to-date health information, anytime, anywhere, for free.
You can use MedlinePlus to learn about the latest treatments, look up information on a drug or supplement, find out the meanings of words, or view medical videos or illustrations. You can also get links to the latest medical research on your topic or find out about clinical trials on a disease or condition. (MedlinePlus)
The website is updated daily and doesn’t contain advertisements. You can toggle between the English and Spanish language sites. There are also links to content in a number of other languages. Easy-to-read print sources and audiovisual tutorials are also available for those who are interested.
MedlinePlus is organized into three major groups: Health Topics, Drugs & Supplements, and Videos & Tools. The Health Topics pages are a compilation of links covering a specific topic and are from health-related government sites and national medical organizations, all in an efficient one-stop search. The website includes health calculators, a medical dictionary and encyclopedia, directories, and a source for press releases on the latest health news.
To locate a specific topic on the Health Topics pages, you can either enter a keyword into the MedlinePlus search box located on the top right corner of the homepage or you can click on the green Health Topics button located on the top left corner of the homepage.
For example, if you search for “Crohn’s disease” using the MedlinePlus search box, the results above appear (see Image 1), starting with the entry from the embedded medical encyclopedia.
On the left side of the screen are filters to refine your results by type of resource or related keywords. The first result on the main screen is always the link to the MedlinePlus page for the topic. Clicking on that link leads to the full page on Crohn’s disease in a Web page design that is similar for all Health Topics pages (see Image 2). Links are organized into six major categories: Basics (e.g., overviews, latest news, diagnosis/symptoms, treatment), Learn More (e.g., alternative therapy, coping, etc.), Multimedia & Cool Tools, Research (e.g., genetics, journal articles, etc.), Reference Shelf (e.g., dictionaries/glossaries, etc.) and For You (i.e., information on specific population groups). Health Topics pages often include links to statistics or epidemiologic data.
In our example, many of the targeted links are to the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) or to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Scrolling down to the section on Genetics, there is a link to another very useful site from the U.S. National Library of Medicine called Genetics Home Reference, http:// ghr.nlm.nih.gov.
The Genetics Home Reference website provides information about genetic conditions and the genes or chromosomes related to those conditions (see Image 3). Just like MedlinePlus, this site is written in consumer-friendly language, is updated frequently and does not contain any advertisements. The About page provides specific notes about content that is included in the following sections: Conditions; Genes; Gene Families; Chromosomes; the Handbook, Help Me Understand Genetics – an excellent concise textbook on genetics (downloadable as a PDF file); Glossary; and additional resources. The editors note that new research that has not been verified may be excluded.
Knowledge of and efficient search skills on the resources of the National Library of Medicine and similar reliable websites can help to enhance health literacy and support health education. Several recent articles describe research or demonstration projects with school populations and patient care clinics that assess the relationships between awareness and usage of MedlinePlus or the Genetics Home Reference and subsequent improved health literacy or confidence in finding credible health information (Beaudoin, Longo, Logan, Jones, & Mitchell, 2011; Ghaddar, Valerio, Garcia, & Hansen, 2012; Olmstadt, Hansen, & Engeszer, 2012).
This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHS-N-276-2011-00003-C with the University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System.
Beaudoin, D. E., Longo, N., Logan, R. A., Jones, J. P., & Mitchell, J. A. (2011). Using information prescriptions to refer patients with metabolic conditions to the Genetics Home Reference website. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 99(1), 70-76. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.99.1.012
Ghaddar, S. F., Valerio, M. A., Garcia, C. M., & Hansen, L. (2012). Adolescent health literacy: The importance of credible sources for online health information. Journal of School Health, 82(1), 28-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00664.x MedlinePlus. Retrieved Dec 9, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/
Olmstadt, W., Hansen, J., & Engeszer, R. J. (2012). The Mobile School Health Information Initiative: Creating and sustaining a free curriculum for P-12 staff to find credible health information. Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet, 16(4), 382-389. doi: 10.1080/15398285.2012.723546
Debra Rand is the associate dean for library services at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. She earned a BA at the University of Michigan and an MS in library services at Columbia University. Prior to her position at the School of Medicine, Ms. Rand was the library director at Long Island Jewish Medical Center for more than 20 years. She is the principal investigator of the Outreach Award under which these activities are taking place. She was also the principal investigator on a three-year award from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to create a centralized online library of e-journals, e-books, and databases for the North Shore-LIJ Health System. She has co-authored several articles in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship and the Journal of the Medical Library Association. Ms. Rand has been very active in professional associations, serving on many committees of the Medical Library Association, and as chair of the Hospital Libraries Section. She has a longtime interest in promoting consumer health education and health literacy. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Kohl’s Family Resource Center at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center and was active on the Patient Education Committee at LIJ. Currently she serves on committees of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHS L) and is very involved in collaboration among the librarians of the new medical schools that have opened across the country over the last 10 years. She was awarded an NLM/AAHS L Leadership Fellowship in 2009-2010, parallel to her involvement in planning the new library at the School of Medicine.
Saori Wendy Herman is the education and liaison librarian at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. She earned a BA from the University of California, Irvine, and an MLIS from Florida State University. Ms. Herman is a member of various professional library organizations, has served as the Connections Committee co-chair for the Medical Library Groups of Southern California and Arizona, and is currently the editor of the Health Sitings column for the Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet and the editor of the Section and SIG News column for MLA News.