From the GMR – Underserved Health Communities Project Launch

Submitted by Darlene Kaskie, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, Iowa City, IA

The Greater Midwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine launched the Underserved Health Communities project on Wednesday, March 1st. Using ArcGIS software, the web mapping application features the health stories of twenty counties in the ten-state region with the highest risk for health factors and behaviors according to the 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

Did you know that obesity in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota is 80% higher than the United States average or that adult smoking in Harlan County, Kentucky is double?

Social determinants either can positively or adversely affect health. Evidence shows that populations with low educational attainment and high unemployment numbers experience poorer health outcomes. Whether a community is rural or urban, financial, physical or cultural barriers to treatment or prevention increases incidences of chronic pain, infectious disease, substance abuse, poor nutrition, and premature morbidity. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, Americans in the highest income group can expect to live more than six years longer compared to the population residing below the federal poverty level.

Health literacy — the ability to comprehend and use information to make decisions — also influences health outcomes. Health literacy can be a barrier to personal health care if information is not available in an accessible language or written at an appropriate reading level. This is where the National Network of Libraries of Medicine of the Greater Midwest Region can help. Using reliable and accurate data to tell the stories of these population groups, the library wants to raise awareness of their specific and significant needs. The goal is to collaborate with outreach librarians, health professionals, and community leaders to promote NIH and NLM information as well as to fund opportunities to initiate programs to improve health disparity in these communities.

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