From the GMR – Librarians Supporting Health Equity: We Can Make a Difference

Submitted by Derek Johnson, Health Professionals Outreach Specialist, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, Iowa City, IA 

In April, I had the opportunity to present at the Minnesota Public Health Association Conference. The theme of the conference was Moving Health Equity Forward. As I prepared for the conference, I began thinking about what health equity really means (the American Public Health Association defines health equity as everyone having the opportunity to attain their highest level of health) and wondering how does a health sciences librarian support the attainment of health equity?

As I pondered that second question I thought of two key audiences that the GMR (and other health sciences librarians) provide services to: health professionals and the general public. These two groups play key roles in the pursuit for health equity and both rely on librarians for assistance in finding and accessing health information. Knowing the audience of the conference would be public health practitioners, I decided to tailor the presentation for that audience.

My presentation that day was titled Advancing Health Equity through Evidence-Based Public Health. It introduced many of the attendees to the idea that the concepts of evidence-based medicine can be tailored to public health. The talk emphasized the role that information plays in conducting evidence-based public health and how important it is to find the best available evidence. And, just as health sciences librarians do with doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, here is a clear opportunity for support in teaching, searching, and outreach to those working to achieve health equity.

But, it’s not just public health professionals that need assistance in locating health information to support the goal of health equity. Consumers need it too. Without access to reliable health information consumers can act (or not act) based on faulty assumptions or misinformation. This is especially true for population groups that might be distrusting of health systems, who lack health literacy, or speak a foreign language. This leads to another opportunity for health sciences librarians to contribute to health equity.

From July 3 – July 24 I’ll be hosting an online Moodle course titled From Beyond our Borders: Providing Multilingual and Multicultural Health Information. I invite you to join me for this course to learn more about refugee health, cultural competence, and where to find health information resources to support both health professionals working with diverse populations and the consumers themselves as we all work to achieve health equity.

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