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Toronto, Jan 3 (Canadian-Media) The Public Library Association (PLA) is partnering with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) to train librarians nationwide to better serve patrons seeking medical guidance to close the gap between the number of low health literate library patrons, and the lack of training and resource familiarity of libraries, media reports said.
Health literacy is the degree to which individuals are able to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.
Low health literacy is a serious and dangerous nationwide issue that has unfortunately claimed the lives of many.
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, which means nearly nine out of ten adult lack the skills necessary to maintain their health, and prevent diseases and infections.
Many individuals who lack health literacy skills cannot read or understand prescription labels and their providers’ instructions and health plans.
They lack numeracy skills to choose health and prescription coverage, and have little to no knowledge on various basic health topics.
Additionally, culture and language barriers can hurt an individual’s ability to understand health plans and instructions.
According to American Journal of Public Health estimates reportedly an excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy due to the role it plays in increasing hospitalization rates, declining utilization of preventative services, and overall poor healthcare outcomes.
A large number of individuals reportedly are at risk of low health literacy, including older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, people with less than a high school degree or equivalency, people with low income levels, non-native speakers of English, and people with compromised health status.
Education, language, culture, access to resources, and age are all factors that affect a person's health literacy skills.
According to a 2010 study, 37 percent of library users, including 57 percent of seniors living in poverty, used public library computers to seek health information.
A 2013 survey showed that a third of the public librarians who responded were unfamiliar with resources that could help patrons with health-related queries.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center -- -- a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research We do not take policy positions -- conducted a survey of Americans ages 16 and older on the role libraries play in their lives and in their communities.
Nearly 75 percent of the respondents said that libraries are helpful when it comes to seeking information on healthcare.
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy,
Libraries serve as vital community hubs and play significant roles in community-based efforts such as health literacy.
Unfortunately, many librarians and administrators are unfamiliar with the health resources available to serve patrons.
The new partnership with PLA-NNLM reportedly address the issue in a number of ways, including with training podcasts, webinars, conference sessions, and a dedicated resources and training website for librarians to better serve patrons seeking medical guidance.
PLA Deputy Director Scott G. Allen said the new initiative, called Promoting Healthy Communities, is designed to tailor medical information for librarians serving a general audience and added, “Public librarians are charged with helping those patrons, but they’re not taught a whole lot in library school about consumer health information or literacy. So they sort of have to learn it on the job.”
“We’re looking for other sources of support, but we’re trying to do things, such as the website, in ways that we can sustain without a lot of resources. Every time we do a webinar in our program, or an article in our journal, it gets archived and we can refer people to it. So we do hope to continue after April,” said Allen
NNLM realizes that even though there are available resources available for librarians, the high-level material is too complex for the basic healthcare consumer information sought by patrons.
PLA-NNLM partnership will help librarians who are seeking a credential in Consumer Health Information Specialization managed by the Medical Library Association and can use training on the materials.
“Some public library staff have a lot of experience with this and maybe just want to take some courses on cultural issues in healthcare, or privacy issues, or opioids,” Allen said.
ProLiteracy and the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services have partnered to further efforts outlined in the National Library Literacy Action Agenda, a resource to help libraries implement processes for institutionalizing adult literacy efforts.
By acknowledging library-focused initiatives such as the PLA-NNLM partnership to increase and improve training on health literacy materials for librarians, and by furthering efforts like those of the ALA and ProLiteracy partnership, health literacy of Americans nationwide could be collectively improved.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)