This year at the ALIA National Conference I was fortunate to be included in an interesting panel discussion on health literacy and consumer health information initiatives centred around collaboration. The panel was entitled Collaborating on Consumer Health: Recognising Public and Health Library Capabilities and featured speakers from across different library sectors in Australia and the UK – public, hospital, academic and NGO libraries.
The keynote for the session was Kate Arnold, President of the Special Libraries Association, and Information and Support Program Lead at Macmillan Cancer Support. Kate posed the question “What’s the future for health information?” and put forth evidence from several reports in the UK that supported the need for information in patient care as research had shown that enhances patients' experience of care but that patients need information that is often very different from what doctors think they need. Kate discussed the service model developed by Macmillan Cancer Support. Macmillan produce information in a variety of formats about cancer types, tests and treatments, and living with and after cancer and deliver their service through face-to-face information centres, the web and information points in public libraries.
Jan Richards (Manager, Central West Libraries) discussed the Books on Prescription project which aims to help people with common mental health disorders as well as their families, friends and employers. GPs and other health professionals prescribe books from a list of high quality, self-help manuals selected by experienced mental health practitioners. The prescribed books are available for loan from the 14 public library services (44 service points) across Central Western NSW.
The aim of the project is to provide resources which deliver reliable information regarding mental illness, promote good mental health and wellbeing, and help build resilience. This project is funded by a Library Council of New South Wales Library Development Grant and is being developed in partnership with The University of Newcastle Centre for Rural and Remote mental Health.
Representing the State Library of NSW my contribution to the panel was to provide an overview of the drug info @ your library service. This service provides up to date information about alcohol and drugs on a dedicated website and through local public libraries in New South Wales. drug info @ your library is a joint initiative of NSW Health and the State Library of NSW.
Daniel McDonald (Darling Downs Hospital & Health Service, Queensland) spoke about a public lecture series that the library is in the process of organising. This series will allow local and invited clinicians to share information on topics of interest with the local community.
Mary Simons (Clinical Librarian, Macquarie University Library) discussed the creation of a patient information website, for patients, carers and families accessing the Macquarie University Cancer Institute services. The goal is to bring the best freely available online information together in one place. There are plans to set up patient information kiosks to host the website in the hospital and clinic waiting rooms, and to link the website to the internet screens provided to each inpatient of the oncology ward.