Friday, April 27, 2012

Replacement activity for March 30 seminar

 “Health Information Equity”, a Conference sponsored by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine –New England Region (NNLM-NER), April 4, at UMass. Worcester, Shrewsbury campus.
Report  by Marianne Burke (replacement for March 30 CTS seminar) .

 The purpose of the conference was to bridge themes of health equity, cultural issues in access to care, and technology. The Conference was attended by medical and public librarians, public health workers, AHEC representatives and Regional Medical Library staff . Many attendees, like myself, have conducted health information outreach projects and have had NLM - sponsored contracts.
The first speaker was Janine Anzalota Program Director at the Boston Health Commission. She spoke on “Health Equity and Health Disparities”  She presented data and analysis from the Boston Health Commission demonstrating that health disparities that show up by race are actually inequities i.e.the result of structural and institutional racism and therefore a social justice issue. 

 The second speaker was Jessamyn West, a Vermont librarian who consults with rural public libraries on technology and information acess. She spoke on the continued Digital Divide.  She provided data  (Pew studies)showing that digital access disparity parallels health disparity in populations by race, socio-economic class, and region.  We discussed how the lack of computing and network resources can translate into health literacy disparities in communities.   Since so much health information is communicated at the family and community level, the lack of technology access may make the dispersion of information throughout communities slower.  Public libraries have been a great leveler providing high speed internet access across rural and didadvantaged urban regions; they are also good sources of health information.  Studies have shown that library –based internet need exceeds capacity, and that many inquiries at libraries are health-related.  
Gary Kreps’ PhD Dir, Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason U. spoke on “Digital Divide, Health Information, and Technology Adoption“.  He argued that access to relevant health information helps both health care providers and consumers achieve their goals.  He did not present  evidence so much as lists of pilot projects or promising information strategies, such as mobile technology health apps, and online peer support/advocacy communities, that may bridge health and IT related divides.

This was a good conference for me relative to my work and research.

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