Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Librarians and Health Workers: Partnering and Collaborating to Support Free Access to Health Information in Nigeria

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Librarians and Health Workers: Partnering and Collaborating to Support Free Access to Health Information in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

The benefits of equitable access to health information cannot be overemphasised. Access to the right kind of information at the right time and in the right format could avert an epidemic, even a pandemic, and save many lives. Health, according to World Health Organisation is "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." (1) Good health consists of low morbidity and low mortality rates and a reasonable or a high quality of life. Good health enables people to lead individual, social and economically productive lives and contributes to the socio-economic growth and development of communities and nations. Health information in this context is defined as "information on a continuum between health education and health promotion." (2) Health information is the published and unpublished knowledge of all aspects of health and health care. Inadequate access to health information and diminished awareness of preventive health measures, little knowledge of, or incorrect information on, medical conditions and treatments not only have negative results for individuals but also for their communities and for the larger society.

Public access to health information is vital in the developing world, especially in those regions of Africa where societies grapple with daunting health problems. In this part of the world, even at governmental levels, information is often befuddled and unreliable. A great many communities in Africa, and throughout Nigeria as a case in point, lack access to reliable and timely health information; community members are often unable to make informed health decisions for themselves or for those under their care. In light of this problem, delegates at the 10th Conference of the Association of Health information and Libraries for Africa (AHILA) resolved that through their country chapters their members will work closely with their public libraries and other stakeholders to ensure that health information is adequately disseminated to rural populations. (3)

In Nigeria, primary health care centres have a mission to provide health information to their communities. In addition to access to information, their services, free of charge, cover maternity care, immunisation, treatment of general common sicknesses such as malaria, measles, chicken pox, cholera and diarrhoea. Although the centres provide these services, the majority of Nigerians lack access to adequate health information. (4) Given newly realized imperatives for health care centres and public libraries to work together in the delivery of health care information, now a global phenomenon, there are new opportunities and new urgencies for these to occur, especially in Nigeria.

The Survey and Study

The survey and resulting analysis consist of the following five objectives: 1) to investigate the forms of partnerships and collaborations of information access existing between the public libraries and primary health centres in Nigeria; 2) to identify formats of health information and health information resources provided to communities at the grassroots level by librarians and health workers in key areas of the country; 3) to identify potential areas for partnerships and collaborations in these regions; 4) to identify barriers to these initiatives; 5) to offer recommendations based on this study. It is hoped that this study will help policy makers, healthcare providers, health workers, information providers, library and information professionals, and other stakeholders in the healthcare sector, embrace greater partnerships and collaborative relationships that achieve broader free access to health information. It is also hoped that this study will promote improved health care information and library partnerships in Nigeria and elsewhere.

The Broad Context

Unequal and inequitable information distribution and variation in the quality of healthcare information have plagued the African continent for decades. …

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