Assessment of the National Library of Medicine's Health Disparities Plan: A Focus on Native American Outreach*

By Siegel, Elliot K.; Wood, Frederick B. et al. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Assessment of the National Library of Medicine's Health Disparities Plan: A Focus on Native American Outreach*


Siegel, Elliot K., Wood, Frederick B., Dutcher, Gale A., Ruffin, Angela, et al., Journal of the Medical Library Association


Objectives: Overcoming health disparities between majority and minority populations is a significant national challenge. This paper assesses outreach to Native Americans (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians) by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). A companion paper details NLM's portfolio of Native American outreach projects.

Method: NLM's Native American outreach is assessed in light of the presentations at a community-based health information outreach symposium and the goals set by NLM's plan to reduce health disparities.

Results: NLM's current portfolio of Native American outreach projects appears most advanced in meeting the goal set in area 1 of the health disparities plan, "Promote use of health information by health professionals and the public." NLM's portfolio also shows significant strength and good progress regarding area 2 of the plan, "Expand partnerships among various types of libraries and community-based organizations." The portfolio is weaker in area 3, "Conduct and support informatics research." More knowledge-building efforts would benefit NLM, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and Native American and community-based organizations.

Implications: The current Native American outreach portfolio should be continued, but new approaches are needed for evaluating Native American outreach and for forging collaborations with Native American groups, approaches grounded in consultation and mutual understanding of needs and perspectives.

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

The "Symposium on Community-based Health Information Outreach" was conceived to encourage the nation's health sciences libraries to explore new outreach models, extend library services beyond traditional boundaries, and forge new partnerships with community-based organizations. The symposium invited a mix of grassroots community organizers, evaluators, communications scholars, and other stakeholders. Participants shared experiences and identified best practices and the tools necessary to measure performance outcomes. The National Library of Medicine's (NLM's) health disparities plan and its outreach projects for Native Americans were evaluated against these benchmarks in a work session following the symposium.

Overcoming health disparities remains a significant challenge throughout the United States. The approach taken by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is primarily research driven, consistent with the fundamental nature of NIH's strength as America's premier research institution seeking to advance understanding of disease and disability. The NIH Strategic Plan To Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities has three major goals [1]:

* Research: to advance the understanding of the development and progression of diseases and disabilities that contribute to minority health and other health disparities

* Research Infrastructure: to increase minority health and health disparity research training, career development, and institutional capacity (intramural and extramural)

* Public Information and Community Outreach: to ensure that the public, health care professionals, and research communities are informed and educated about the latest advances in minority health and health disparities research

Public information and community outreach is the principal goal around which NLM's Strategic Plan for Addressing Health Disparities 2004-2008 is structured [2]. It mirrors the most recent iteration of NLM's Long Range Plan 2000-2005, especially the outreach goals and objectives [3].

At the core of NLM's health disparities plan is the belief that improving access to affordable and easy-to-use health-related information and health technology could address some of the challenges of the nation's health disparities. A multidimensional approach has been taken, grounded in NLM's strengths. NLM is the world's largest medical library; it also manages the 5,000-member-strong National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM). …

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