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Health literacy and libraries: a literature review

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Full text of author's final version available here: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1nb8s8sh Purpose The purpose of this paper is to assess the involvement of libraries in health literacy programs and initiatives based on a review of the literature. Design/methodology/approach Four databases were searched for papers that described health literacy programs and initiatives within libraries. Findings Several themes of health literacy programs in libraries emerged: health literacy for older adults, underserved populations, the general public, healthcare professionals, and medical students, and patients. Collaborations between libraries and community organizations were frequently used. Practical implications Librarians may use this review to understand the history of health literacy efforts and libraries to inform future programming. This review will contextualize current research on health literacy and libraries. Originality/value Despite the currency and relevance of this topic, there are no literature reviews on health literacy and librarianship.
Full text final author’s version available here: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1nb8s8sh
... Librarians are well poised to address health literacy due to their roles as researchers, teachers, and information professionals, yet there has been inadequate study on the intersection between health literacy and librarianship. The current state of health literacy knowledge and practice is well captured by Oelschlegel et al. and Barr-Walker, who note that librarians' experiences providing information to clinicians to guide clinical decision-making, as well providing access to consumer health information to patients, position them to contribute to the improvement of health literacy [4,5]. ...
... As noted by Bankson, the growing recognition of the importance of health literacy in the first decade of the 2000s may have led to the increase in publications from 1997 to 2007 [3]. For our analysis, the increase in publications could also correlate with the continued growth of the recognition of health literacy, as indicated by the addition of health literacy in the United States' Healthy People 2010 [13] and "health literacy" being added as a Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) term in 2010 [5]. Additionally, the rise in publications throughout 2010 and onward could also be due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that went into effect that year, which defines and addresses health literacy in four sections [14,15]. ...
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Objective: In order to determine the status of scholarly efforts on health literacy by librarians, researchers examined the characteristics of health literacy publications authored by librarians from 2000 to 2020. Methods: Bibliometric analysis was used to assess the indicators of productivity, affiliation, collaboration, and citation metrics of librarians in health literacy-related research. Data were collected using the Scopus database; articles were screened for inclusion before importation into Microsoft Excel for analysis. SPSS software was used to run basic descriptive statistics. Results: Of 797 search results, 460 references met the inclusion criteria of librarian authorship. There was a significant linear trend upward in publications since 2001 with an average increase of 1.52 papers per year. The number of publications per year peaked in 2019 (n=59). Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet was the most prolific journal. The majority of references were authored by at least two authors and by multidisciplinary teams. Nineteen percent (n=107) of the librarian authors were responsible for more than one publication, and 84.1% of publications were cited at least once. Conclusions: In the last two decades, librarian involvement in health literacy publications has exponentially increased, most markedly in the years following 2014. The productivity, multidisciplinary collaboration efforts, and consistent growth in literature indicate that librarians are engaged in health literacy scholarship. Further research is needed to explore the work of librarians whose impacts on health literacy may not be reflected within well-indexed, peer-reviewed publications.
... As noted by Barr-Walker (2016) in her review of the literature on health literacy and libraries, 'school librarians have a unique opportunity to improve the health literacy of children and teachers, but these libraries are underrepresented in the literature ' (p. 200). ...
... Additionally, nearly 38% of library Internet users seek health information [5][6]. Public libraries are viewed as trustworthy arbiters of information and have long provided their patrons with health-related programming and health information resources, as well as other offerings that impact health literacy in their communities [7][8]. ...
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Objectives: Academic health sciences librarians sought to evaluate the efficacy and future of the Health Information Specialists Program, a five-year consumer health information outreach collaboration with public libraries across the state. Methods: Five focus groups were held with participants from all five years of the program. Thirty-four participants from the program attended. Facilitators used structured interview guides consisting of eleven questions regarding the impact of the collaboration on participants' abilities to connect themselves or others to health information; the usefulness of materials or knowledge gained and its applications; any consumer health outreach projects that arose from the program; and suggestions for future topics, formats, or modifications. Data was hand-coded and analyzed using the framework analysis methodology for qualitative research. Results: Participants reported feeling improved confidence and comfort in providing health information services to their patrons. Numerous instances of knowledge transfer-in their personal lives, with their colleagues, and for their patrons-were described. Participants reported improved abilities to both find and evaluate consumer health information, and many adapted class materials for their own programming or teaching. Suggestions were provided for future class topics as well as a program website. Conclusion: Based on data from the five focus groups, the Health Information Specialists Program has positively impacted participants in a number of ways. Primary among these were self-reported improvement in both health information retrieval skills and the ability to evaluate the reliability of health information online, as well as in the confidence to help patrons with their health information needs.
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Refugees and immigrants have adverse health outcomes after arriving in the United States. These negative outcomes tend to be disproportionate to those of the general population, regardless of the person’s health status upon entry to the country. Research has shown that strong health literacy skills can improve health outcomes in this group. This article reports the results of a pilot in which Library and Information Science Master’s students deliver health literacy training to refugee and immigrant women. This training was created in consultation with experts and community partners. The participants were pre- and post-tested with the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy for Adults (STOFHLA) to assess the efficacy of this intervention. Following the completion of the course, the participants were interviewed and asked for comprehensive feedback on the relevance and helpfulness of the program to satisfy their health-related information needs. Their feedback was substantial and will be the basis of a future iteration of this pilot. The pre- and post-test scores of the group showed a statistically significant improvement, providing evidence that the course was effective in raising STOFHLA scores. This article provides insight into providing health literacy instruction for a highly vulnerable group that may be invaluable to library and information science professionals. The purpose of this work is to create a replicable curriculum targeting immigrant and refugee women to be delivered at libraries—and a program in which LIS students can get involved to prepare for dynamic community engagement.
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The last couple of decades health literacy has gained significant momentum among the issues listed as priority within the public health sphere. In addition, the advances of Information and Communications Technology, the adoption of digital technology to perform basic tasks in our daily lives and thus the re-orientation of health care has led to the introduction of e-health literacy and digital health literacy. Hence, different groups of users needs to develop and acquire the additional digital skills and competences to search, retrieve, access and use health information. This study aims to review the literature concerning librarians’ involvement in health literacy that published between 2010 and 2020 using the principles of systematic literature review. Specifically, search terms such as “health literacy,” “information professional/s,” “librarian/s,” and “library” were run on ACM Digital Library, Scopus, Library, Information Science and Technology Abstracts (LISTA), Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), Citeseer, Google Scholar, e-prints in Library and Information Science (e-LiS), Digital Library of Information Science and Technology (DLIST), PubMed and Science Direct. The searches were performed during October–November 2020 and were repeated in January–February 2021; and after considering a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria 57 peer-reviewed papers were considered. Six broad areas of interest emerged through a thorough analysis of the identified, relevant literature namely “role of librarians in relation to health literacy development,” “user studies related to health literacy,” “health literacy programs,” “health literacy and LIS education,” “ health literacy initiatives” and “tools used by librarians in health literacy projects.” Main findings showcase that libraries as secure and trusted places can play a key role in developing and promoting health literacy to different groups; new job titles emerge for librarians (consumer health librarian, health information services librarians, health literacy librarian); whereas collaboration is a key element for developing and offering health literacy training programs to diverse group of users as well as the public.
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Background Understanding the health information needs of adolescents is the first step towards providing them with relevant information to aid them in their decision making regarding health issues. Objective The goal of this study is to assess adolescents’ needs, perceptions and sources of health information. Methods Four hundred sixty‐nine high school students in Osijek, Croatia, participated in this study by answering a questionnaire. The collected data were analysed using basic frequency and non‐parametric statistical methods. Results The most popular health topics identified by adolescents in our study were nutrition, diseases, depression, relationships, sexual intercourse and alcohol. Adolescents consider their parents the most reliable personal source of health information (72.0%), while they perceive the Internet as the main non‐personal source of health information (29.8%). Adolescents wish to get more education about health issues at school (54.4%). Significant gender differences were found in adolescents’ needs, perceptions and sources of health information. Conclusions It is important to provide adolescents with systematic institutional health education and improve health advisory services and library/information services to assist adolescents in locating health information and resolving their health related questions.
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