Details on article
|Author||Whiteman, E.D.; Dupuis, R.; Morgan, A.U.; D’Alonzo, B.; Epstein, C.; Klusaritz, H.; Cannuscio, C.C.|
|Title||Public Libraries As Partners for Health|
Whiteman E.D., Dupuis R., Morgan A., D’Alonzo B., Epstein C., Klusaritz H. et al. Public libraries as partners for health. Health Prev Chronic Dis. 2018 15:E64.
|Keywords||public library; commuity engagement; staff; health
|Link to article|| https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd15.170392
|Abstract||As centers for community engagement and education, public libraries provide ideal spaces for the transfer of health information, making them logical choices as partners for improving population health. More than 9,000 public library systems across the country host 1.5 billion in-person visits annually, exceeding the number of physician office visits by over 50% . During those visits, 42% of patrons report using libraries’ digital resources to search for health information. Literacy, a core mission of libraries, is a cornerstone of lifelong health. Higher literacy, including health literacy, is associated with increased levels of fulltime employment, on-time high school graduation rates, and a twofold reduced risk of uncontrolled diabetes. Recent research conducted in Philadelphia showed that public libraries often engage in health-related roles that extend beyond circulation of reading materials. More than a third of inquiries to public librarians include questions about health. Public libraries also serve as places of refuge for vulnerable populations, including people experiencing mental illness, homelessness, immigration challenges, and trauma. Library staff members regularly assist patrons who have unmet health and social needs, but feel ill-equipped to address these patron needs. Previous research has focused on librarians’ role in providing disease-specific consumer health information; however, little is known from surveys about the extent to which librarians are called on to assist patrons with social determinants of health, such as housing, employment, and education. The objective of our study was to investigate the frequency and methods library staff members use and are familiar with to address the social determinants of health. Our research — one of several steps taken by the Healthy Library Initiative to establish the feasibility of partnering with public libraries to improve population health — can be extended nationally to inform future partnerships between public libraries and the public health sector.
|Metodology||Our 100-question web survey used both open-ended and closedended queries to assess the nature and frequency of library staff members’ work related to social determinants of health in 6 domains: 1) education and literacy; 2) wellness and mental health (eg, mental illness, drug abuse, sexual identity); 3) social issues (eg, finding food, applying for social benefits); 4) finances, legal aid, and employment (eg, tax preparation, immigration, post-incarceration); 5) health care (eg, health insurance, finding a provider); and 6) housing and domestic issues (eg, homelessness, intimate partner violence). Questions also evaluated staff members’ professional training to assist patrons in those 6 domains. Additionally, the survey included questions about respondents’ job strain, the most rewarding and challenging aspects of their job, and their experiences managing patrons’ acute health and social issues in the library setting (eg, drug overdose, harassment). Survey development was informed by interviews with library patrons and staff members. Each member of the study team tested the survey multiple times before launch. Survey completion took approximately 10 to 15 minutes. The survey data were analyzed using Stata version 11.4 (StataCorp LLC) and ArcGIS version 10.3.1(Esri). Descriptive statistics were calculated and one-sample t tests of differences between means (significance at P
|Findings||The challenges library staff members experience in meeting their patrons’ information needs suggest opportunities for public libraries to advance population health. Library staff members need additional training and resources and collaboration with public health and health care institutions to respond to community needs through effective, evidence-based public health programming. Respondents (N = 262) reported frequently interacting with patrons around health and social concerns — well beyond those related to literacy and education — including help with employment (94%), nutrition (70%), exercise (66%), and social welfare benefits (51%). Acute emergencies were not uncommon in Pennsylvania’s public libraries, with nearly 12% of respondents having witnessed a drug overdose at the library in the past year. Most respondents felt that their professional training left them inadequately prepared to assist patrons with health and social issues. Although at least 40% of respondents offered some health programming at their library branch, their offerings did not meet the high level of need reflected in common patron inquiries.
|Technique||Survey; REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture); Stata; Descriptive Statistics;|