Library and Information Science
Background: Public health challenges can be better addressed if credible information about health risks and effective public health practices is readily available. The need for improved access to evidence-based public health information has been recognized by public health practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and librarians.
Objective: To understand the information needs of the public health workforce and to improve access to credible and relevant information for public health practice.
Methods: A qualitative study identified how public health professionals currently access information, what barriers they face, and what improvements they need. Nineteen individual interviews were conducted in two state health bureaus – communicable disease control and community health promotion. Follow-on focus groups were conducted to gather additional data on preferences for accessing information.
Results: Public health professionals interviewed have a wide variety of needs and use different information sources depending on the areas of public health they work in and the diverse nature of their work. The types of information they use can be arranged in an information needs continuum ranging from early reports of disease outbreaks needed by those dealing with emerging diseases, to published reports, journal articles, systematic reviews, and evidence-based guidelines needed by those working on the prevention and control of well-known diseases and health threats. Information sources used by the participants include news resources, listservs, alert services, journal articles, conference proceedings, and email. The study revealed that public health practitioners face several barriers and limitations to accessing quality information for public health practice. These include lack to time and knowledge to find quality information; feeling bombarded with unfiltered and often duplicative information from listservs; and limited access to grey literature, systematic reviews, and full-text journal articles.
Conclusion: Both groups expressed the need for access to information targeted towards their specific public health areas of interest and desired a way to filter information for more efficient access to relevant information. The research team developed a hypothetical model for the delivery and organization of credible and relevant public health information. Some of the participants were not aware of evidence-based public health resources currently available. An outcome of the project that is particularly beneficial to the public health workforce and information professionals is the project’s website, http://library.umassmed.edu/ebpph, which provides free online access to public health journals, databases, and evidence-based public health resources identified by the research team.
Presentation at the 2006 Medical Library Association Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ.
public health information resources, public health professionals, information needs, access to health information
2006 Medical Library Association Annual Meeting
See also the project website: Evidence-Based Practice for Public Health.
Simpson, E. Hatheway; LaPelle, Nancy R.; and Martin, Elaine Russo, "Improving Access to Public Health Information: A Study of Information Needs in a State Health Department" (2006). University of Massachusetts Medical School. Library Publications and Presentations. Paper 60.