NIH Press Advisory
National Library of Medicine

Thursday, October 01, 1998

Bob Mehnert
Kathy Gardner

Public Health Officials to Get New Communication Tools

(Bethesda, Md.)-Helping public health officials hook up to the Internet and making it easier for them to access health information is the goal of "Partners in Information Access," a joint project of the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NLM), the NLM's National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Today NLM and the NN/LM jointly announced the award of 13 contracts totaling $650,000 as an important step toward this goal.

"Public health officials, as a group, have inadequate access to information services and technology," said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., NLM Director. "This new initiative will allow them to get training and the latest health information in order to respond more effectively to disease outbreaks and environmental health risks that affect the health and well-being of entire communities."

Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., praised the new initiative and noted that helping our public health workforce will lead to improved health for the American public. "The public health workforce seeks to prevent health hazards and contain the spread of disease through efforts that often are as basic as teaching food preparers to wash their hands before handling food, while at other times they are as complex as our work to map the human genome. The 13 programs being announced today will improve access to information and advanced telecommunications in a way that will better equip public health officials to deal with the many challenges they face."

The goals of "Partners in Information Access" are to: (1) increase public health professionals' awareness of the services of the NLM, NN/LM, and CDC; (2) assist public health professionals in getting connected to the Internet; (3) train them in using information technology and information services; and (4) to increase awareness of public health information needs and resources among NN/LM members.

The 13 projects are scattered around the United States in rural and other underserved areas, from Alaska to Vermont, and involve information services for public health professionals of all kinds who are addressing a variety of community health problems and special populations. A brief description of the projects follows.

University of Alaska, Anchorage
Health Sciences Information Service
October 1, 1998-April 30, 2000
Project Director: Kathleen Murray
Phone: 907-786-1611; Fax: 907-786-1608

The "Outreach to Alaska's Public Health Professionals" will target the public health workforce in the eight Divisions of Public Health in the Department of Health and Social Services. The primary target group will be the public health nurses throughout Alaska and the Emergency Medical Services System (EMS) personnel will be the secondary target audience. Collaborative partners are The Alaska Health Education Library Project (AHELP), the Alaska Public Health Association, the Alaska Health Education Consortium (AHEC), and the Alaska Public Health Improvement Process (APHIP). Project objectives include: 1) increasing awareness of national and state health information resources and services, 2) increasing access to the Internet and other information resources within the state, 3) training public health nurses and emergency medical services personnel in the use of the Internet and state health information resources, and 4) providing support for the Alaska Health Education Library Project. Work stations will be provided for those sites in need of computers. Additional activities include onsite training, sponsoring three public health information video conferences and developing training materials.

Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, GA)
Medical Library & Peyton Anderson Learning Resources Center
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: Jocelyn A. Rankin
Phone: 912-752-2519; Fax: 912-752-2051

Mercer University will collaborate with the Georgia Division of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Southwest Georgia Area Health Education Center (SOWEGA-AHEC). Exhibits, classes and demonstrations will also involve working with the Georgia Public Health Association, the Georgia Rural Health Association, and the Georgia Nurses Association. The PHOENIX (Public Health Online Education Necessary for Information Expertise) Project will support the CDC's INPHO project in Georgia by providing training in access to and use of electronic information. The project will provide training for public health professionals in the use of PubMed/IGM, the CDC information services, the GDPH Web site and other Internet resources. Five training modules will be developed along with a Web-based self-study module that can be used by both public health professionals and public health students. Classes will be given on-site via the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System Network (GSAMS) distance learning network in each of the nineteen public health districts.

Hawaii Medical Library (Honolulu, HI)
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: John Breinich
Phone: 1-808-356-9302; Fax: 1-808-524-6956

This project represents a partnership between the Hawaii Medical Library and the School of Public Health at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A needs assessment will be conducted. A local public health Internet site that focuses on Hawaii-related health data available through local and national sources will be developed. On-site Internet and PubMed/IGM training will be provided to key public health professionals using a mini-LAN consisting of 4 laptop computers. Online demonstrations will also be provided via exhibits at the meetings of the Hawaii Public Health Association and the Hawaii Health Information Corporation.

University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)
Hardin Library for the Health Sciences
December 1, 1998-December 31, 1999
Project Directors: Edwin Holtum
Phone: 319-335-9872; Fax: 319-335-9897
Kara Logsden
Phone: 319-335-9731; Fax: 319-356-8651

The primary goal of the project is to identify and address the information needs of the public health workers participating in the Healthy Iowans 2010. Ongoing support will be provided to the healthy Iowans 2010 Work Group, the committee responsible for planning and writing the Healthy Iowans 2010 document, and the Interagency Teams. The target audience will also be broadened to include community groups that are developing their own community-specific plans. Training will be provided for the Public Health Department Work Group, the Interagency Teams, and the local coalitions. A Web site and listserv will be developed for public health groups.

University of Illinois at Chicago
Library of the Health Sciences
December 1, 1998-June 30, 2000
Project Director: Rama Vishwanatham
Phone: 312-996-8993; Fax: 312-996-1899

The aim of the Chicago Environmental Public Health Outreach Project (CEPHOP) is to design a public health network in Chicago to improve access to environmental public health information resources by the public health professionals working at the local level. The Library of the Health Sciences will form partnerships with the Cook County Hospital Department of Family Practice and selected community organizations and schools. The plan is to provide equipment and PubMed/IGM training to all individuals and groups served by the participating health centers, community-based organizations and schools. A Train the Trainer approach will be used and introductory PubMed/IGM training materials will be translated into Spanish. Participating health centers, organizations and schools will identify a primary contact person to facilitate the training at each site. A Web site linking consortium members to information resources on environmental health will be developed by the Library and the UIC School of Public Health, and a listserv will be set up to facilitate communication among the groups.

University of Nevada, Reno
Savitt Medical Library, School of Medicine
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: Joan S. Zenan
Phone: 702-784-4625; Fax: 702-784-4489

The University of Nevada will target public health professionals working in two county health departments, the Nevada Rural Health Centers, Inc., the Nevada State Health Division, and the Nevada State Laboratory. Site coordinators will be identified at the five participating health agencies and the two professional associations. Onsite courses will be provided and additional training will be developed via Web-based tutorials. Training will also be offered through the existing statewide video conferencing system. The University of Nevada will collaborate with the Nevada Public Health Association and the Nevada Environmental Health Association to develop a Web site. Efforts will be made to make available unpublished gray literature and data generated by public health agencies in Nevada. Publicity will include publishing a semiannual newsletter, exhibiting at the Nevada Public Health Association meeting, placing articles in newsletters of state and local public health agencies and making local television appearances.

State University of New York at Buffalo
Health Sciences Library
October 1, 1998- September 30, 2000
Project Director: Sharon A. Gray
Phone: 716-829-3337; Fax: 716-829-2211

The project will target 700 public health professionals in a seven county area served by the Western Regional Office of the New York State Health Department. The target population will include epidemiologists, physicians, nurses, dentists, social workers, sanitarians, and administrators. The project will provide Internet and PubMed/IGM training to the target population thru a series of workshops to be held in Buffalo and Rochester. User aids and guides will be developed to assist public health professionals in selecting and searching relevant resources. A Website will be developed. Collaborators in the project will be the county health department program managers, county health commissioners, and the Western New York Public Health Coalition.

Southern Regional AHEC (Fayetteville, NC)
Information Access Center
October 1, 1998- September 30, 2000
Project Director: Russet R. Hambrick
Phone: 910-678-7249; Fax: 910-323-4007

The Southern Regional AHEC (SR-AHEC) will target public health departments in nine counties in south central North Carolina. The region is characterized as a rural, poor and medically underserved area of the state. The project will provide computer workstations for each health department; train public health professionals to use PubMed/IGM, Loansome Doc, and CDC Internet resources; and link participants to training opportunities available through other North Carolina AHEC centers and universities. A regional public health Web site will also be established. The Web site will serve as an Internet gateway to health information and an avenue for communication for the SR-AHEC public health community and will be used as a training tool for community based undergraduate and graduate medical and health education students. The Web site will provide direct communication between practicing public health providers and physician residents who are being trained to practice in rural, underserved communities.

East Carolina University and Eastern Area Health Education Center (Greenville, NC)
William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library
October 1, 1998-September 30, 1999
Project Directors: Dorothy Spencer (ECU)
Phone: 252-816-2212; Fax: 252-816-2672
Janet Bangma (EAHEC)

Eastern Carolina University and the Eastern AHEC will collaborate to provide Internet connectivity and training to the staff of 19 public health departments in the Eastern AHEC area. The target population includes 950 public health professionals within a 23 northeastern county region served by the Eastern AHEC. Onsite hands-on training will be provided to public health personnel in the region on PubMed, and other Internet information sources including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill system (UNCLE). Follow-up onsite training will also be provided. A listserv will be established to connect the public health departments.

University of Pittsburgh
Falk Library of the Health Sciences
October 1, 1998-April 30, 2000
Project Director: Patricia Mickelson
Phone: 412-648-2036; Fax: 412-648-9128

Hands-on training activities in this project will focus on four target populations: 1) key employees and affiliates of the Pennsylvania Department of Health; 2) employees of the Allegheny County Department of Health; 3) membership of keep public health organizations; and 4) students in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Training will also be incorporated into the Department of Health's semiannual sponsored Public Health Training Institutes. Baseline data will be collected and training programs and specialized exhibits will be offered during statewide meetings. A home page describing available services and training opportunities will be designed.

Upper Savannah Area Health Education Consortium (Greenwood, SC)
Medical Library
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: Thomas W. Hill
Phone: 864-227-4851; Fax: 864-227-4838

The Upper Savannah Area Health Education Consortium will target three public health departments, the Appalachia One Public Health District and the Upper Savannah Public Health District, which cover eight of the nine counties in the Upper Savannah AHEC region; and the Carolina Health Centers, Inc., which are federally supported rural health offices; and Anderson Area Medical Center sites. The target population will also include students in the Clemson University Public Health Department and the Nursing and Professional Services Department. The project will provide computer workstations for 4 rural sites, Internet training, and training in PubMed/IGM.

University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: Martha Adamson
Phone: 214-648-2626; Fax: 214-648-2826

The project includes five academic medical libraries in Texas that support academic public health programs. In addition to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the four other institutions are Texas A & M University Medical Sciences Library, University of North Texas Health Science Center, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Library, and University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health Library. The project will target the faculty and students of schools of health at the participating institutions, and public health practitioners in nine local public health departments that are located near the participating institutions. The specific objectives of the project are: 1) publicize and promote the availability of education and Internet resources to the target population; 2) collaborate in the development of shared, web-based resources and a model Web-oriented curriculum for the target population; and 3) provide education and support for the staffs of the participating libraries. Staff development colloquiums will be conducted via teleconferencing. Telephone interviews will be used to gather baseline data.

University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)
Charles A. Dana Medical Library
October 1, 1998-September 30, 2000
Project Director: Julie J. McGowan
Phone: 802-656-4362; Fax: 802-656-0762

The University of Vermont will work with the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Aging and Disabilities to target the elderly population in Vermont. The project goals are to: 1) use VTMEDNET to provide evidence-based information to public health service professionals in support of elderly Vermonters; 2) provide training for information access to identified groups of health professionals across the State involved in elder care; 3) develop VT-CHIP (the Vermont Consumer Health Information Project) to provide access to consumer health information for elderly Vermonters; and 4) create a structured information dissemination model to provide knowledge-based information as needed. Client profiles will be developed and every public health service professional will be given accounts on VTMEDNET, added to appropriate listservs, and provided the training necessary to run MEDLINE searches, request articles using Loansome Doc, and to use other public health resources available via the Internet.