Tracking the breaking news and resulting response around the various strains of influenza we are contending with this year has been rather confusing. I know that the big questions around our office and homes has been, “Should I get a flu shot? Should my children or parents? Which ones? By what delivery method?” But I do think that the government and Centers for Disease Control have been doing an admirable job of compiling the essential information and keeping us informed of how to best prepare for this unusual situation.
As WebJunction embarks on this month’s focus on emergency planning and response, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the resources out there that guide businesses and individuals through the process of disaster preparation and recovery. A great site is ready.gov. There is also a spinoff site called flu.gov, which includes a section that contains links to excellent guidance to business for preparing for the seasonal influenza epidemic as well as the N1H1 (aka “swine flu”) epidemic: http://pandemicflu.gov/professional/business/#
I’ve spent the last few days in Tucson learning about information resources for Hispanic/Latino health at the Trejo Foster Institute. As Dr. Angela Ruffin of the National Library of Medicine said in her presentation, it has been hot outside but cool inside, meaning this has been a “cool” meeting. We heard from public librarians and library staff, public health officials, clinicians, a Pima County Supervisor, promotoras, community advocates, bilingual community members, and librarians from the National Library of Medicine.
Dr. Tony Estrada kicked off the conference with a fascinating presentation on Mexican-American health beliefs which any health information and care system must be aware of in order to develop a relevant and culturally appropriate community health service. We heard from a migrant farm worker turned promotora, Emma Torres, the Executive Director of Campesinos sin Fronteras. Putting the researchers, the grassroots outreach workers, and the librarians in the same room led to ideas being shared on how libraries can partner with different agencies to bring health information to their patrons/customers and result in better health outcomes and disease prevention in their communities. Multiple presenters explained the role information plays in community health when a challenged health care system can only give patients 15 minutes each for a visit. It is vital that those patients have somewhere to go find out more information about their health, whether it be diet information for diabetics or prenatal care information for pregnant women. Links were also presented between Native American and Spanish-speaking communities. We’ll be posting more information on some of the great projects that were highlighted at the conference in our expanding Health Information for Spanish Speakers and Services to Tribal and First Nation Communities so stay tuned!
Throughout the conference, presenters pointed out the health disparity between communities of color, especially monolingual Spanish speakers, and Anglo communities. While there is a growing number of electronic health resources in Spanish, the digital divide prohibits many Spanish-speaking Latinos (see Pew report) from accessing these important resources. Because of this, health information providers can’t always reach the parts of the community that are most in need of the vital information that is part of the health care experience. The importance of free access to computers and the Internet that public libraries provide is dramatically highlighted by this point. It is the recognition of this role of the library and other technology access providers that is behind the NN/LM slate of new funding mechanisms, which include technology improvement and Internet connection awards as well as money for staff to learn about new technologies through conference attendance. You can learn more about their funding opportunities.
As many libraries have learned, there are not enough people of color interested in the library profession to meet the demands that libraries are facing on culturally relevant services. The same challenge is true in the health care and health information professions. The NLM is providing opportunities for young adults in the Spanish-speaking and Latino community to learn more and get excited about a career in health care.
Medline Plus Spanish version accounts for a third of the Medline Plus usage. Most of the usage for Spanish version is outside the U.S. This raises the question – is that due to a lack of promotion in U.S to Spanish speakers? You can see their new commercial with Don Francisco which they will be rolling out widely in Spanish language media.