News: News Archives
AAAS Library Program Aims
to Impact Health Disparities
When it issued its report in January on health status among minorities in the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that, "relatively little progress was made toward the goal of eliminating racial/ethnic disparities...during the last 10 years."
David Satcher, who was U.S. Surgeon General at the time, noted that there were improvements in some indicators of health status, but added, "our work isn't done until all infants have the same chance to thrive, all mothers have equal access to prenatal care, and all Americans are equally protected from cancer, heart disease, and stroke."
This too is the goal of AAAS's project, "Healthy People 2010 Library Initiative," which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help educate the public, particularly in low-income minority communities, about health and disease. The AAAS initiative will provide scientific information to help people make better choices about how they live their lives and train librarians to respond to requests for information. The five-year initiative, which started in October 2000, has published its first two booklets, one on biomedical research and the other on diabetes, which will be available in August. Other booklets, scheduled to be published by the end of next year, will feature information on asthma and allergies, heart disease and stroke, and nutrition.
"We are trying to create more accessible materials," says Maria Sosa, editor-in-chief of the AAAS Science Books and Films program.
In addition to these materials for the general public, the initiative is publishing several training booklets for librarians. The first, called "The Challenge of Providing Consumer Health Information Services in Public Libraries" serves as a background guide of the initiative and its goals, and will be sent out to libraries around the country in the coming weeks.
"Our goal is to help libraries serve the community," Sosa says.
The library program adopted the goals of NIH's Healthy People 2010, a national initiative promoting healthy living and disease prevention. In designing the initiative, its planners realized that communities that lacked hospitals and adequate medical care, might still have libraries where people could get basic information on nutrition and prevention strategies.
Communicating to recent immigrant populations is especially challenging, Sosa says. Language barriers may prevent people from knowing that libraries exist to serve local communities. "People might think that they need identification, they don't know that it's free," Sosa says.
NIH funds the AAAS library initiative through it SEPA program (Science Education Partnership Award), which encourages scientists to work with institutions in the community to improve public understanding of science.
24 June 2002
Key findings from, The Challenge of Providing Consumer Health Information Services