Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Health Information Literacy as A Predictor of Community Information Service Utilization among Citizens in Public/National Libraries in South Western Nigeria

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Health Information Literacy as A Predictor of Community Information Service Utilization among Citizens in Public/National Libraries in South Western Nigeria

Article excerpt

Background to the Study

The significance of health information to community development has been variously highlighted and justified by various authors. Ties (2013) stressed that health information is a critical component of community system and is essential for generating and reporting data for the national level which in the long run enhances development. In support of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) (2014) affirmed that health information gives clearer picture of health and sickness across entire population and this knowledge can help prevent the spread of disease and improve individual health.

Unfortunately, the potential of public/national library to achieve this by employing Community Information Service (CIS) has been overlooked by many authors. Islam (2010) defined CIS as services that offer survival information such as that related to health, housing, income, legal protection, economic opportunities and political right. They are services offered by librarians and libraries to provide people with information relevant to their everyday life, particularly those in the lower economic and disadvantaged groups who need to learn how to obtain, understand and use information. It was intended to reduce deprivation and illiteracy in rural areas. Summarily CIS revolves round information meant for the survival and growth of the community which in the long run would make citizens better and ready to contribute meaningfully to societal development.

However CIS in Nigerian public and national libraries in respect of health and other areas has been bedevilled by factors such as negative economics and political situation, lack of adequate and professional workforce, non computerization of services, lack of well defined policies, neglect from government, unimpressive facilities, low patronage, lack of current materials and poor funding (Abiola and Olatokunbo, 2012). Apart from these, previous health related CIS utilisation in Nigerian public libraries concentrated much on HIV/AIDS (Bamise, Adedigba, 2009 and Edewor 2010). Medical Libraries only exist as special library which are strictly meant for health professionals and Nigeria is yet to own its own national library of medicine. Furthermore, very scanty literature exists which relate CIS in Nigerian public libraries to health related factor such as health information literacy.

According to Connie (2011) the Medical Library Association defined Health Information Literacy (HIL) as the set of abilities needed to recognise health information needs, identify likely information sources and use them to retrieve relevant information, assess the quality o the information and its applicability to a specific situation and analyze, understand and use the information to make good health decisions. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) (2013) stated that HIL is the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. According to the ODPHP, 12% of USA adults were health literacy proficient. Studies show that as many as half of all adults in all socio-economic level struggle with health literacy and also lack the ability to understand and use the information need to make good health decisions (Medical Library Association, 2014). Past studies such as those conducted by Issa, Blessing and Daura (2009) Portmann and Rousch (2004) have linked information literacy to use of library. Based on this premise, HIL is a likely predictor of CIS utilization in public libraries.

This study aimed at investigating health information literacy as a predictor of community information service utilization in south western Nigerian public libraries due to the fact that a good understanding of health literacy rate would assist the government in planning and educating citizens in respect of health management and how public libraries could be well funded to achieve community health literacy. Based on these premise and in conjunction with the indispensability of health information literacy to community information service utilisation in public libraries as well as few empirical research studies on these variables especially in Nigeria, this study focused investigation on the relationship between health information literacy and CIS utilization in selected public libraries in south western Nigeria. …

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