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Midwest Matters November 13th, 2018
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Wash and Learn Promotes Health Literacy

Posted by on August 13th, 2018 Posted in: All of Us, Consumer Health, Funding, Public Libraries
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Wash and Learn started from an exploratory program with Libraries Without Borders to create pop-up literacy spaces. Laundromats proved to be incredibly popular places to host the program. Photo attribution: Libraries Without Borders U.S. and Michigan Radio

Wash and Learn started from an exploratory program with Libraries Without Borders to create pop-up literacy spaces. Laundromats proved to be incredibly popular places to host the program. Photo attribution: Libraries Without Borders U.S. and Michigan Radio

The Greater Midwest Region of the National Library of Medicine awarded a health information outreach award to Libraries Without Borders (LWB), a non-profit organization “striving to invent the 21st century library so that regardless of circumstances, people throughout the world can live with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive through access to information, education and culture.”

Allister Chang, Executive Director, and Adam Echelman, Director of Programs, launched Wash & Learn as a summer learning program that created pop-up library spaces in laundromats throughout Detroit. With the support of several community agencies including the Parkman Branch of the Detroit Public Library, Wash and Learn transformed local laundromats into informal learning spaces where people could access early-learning literacy materials as they waited for their clothes to wash and dry.

Because of the success of the Detroit early-learning literacy program, Allister and Adam considered other community literacy needs. In 2017, they applied for funding from NNLM to add MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine consumer health information website, to the Wash and Learn program. They partnered with the Brainerd Public Library in Minnesota to facilitate trainings at the laundromats so consumers might learn how to use MedlinePlus to find quality health information in order to make better informed health care decisions for themselves and their families.

During this year’s award cycle, funding from NNLM enables Wash and Learn to expand to the Minnesota counties of St. Paul, Anoka, and Scott. In these three communities, they will partner with the local public libraries and laundromats to continue health literacy outreach. The goal for Wash and Learn is to become a sustainable model for low-income and underserved communities to access quality and relevant health information in order to improve their health.

Watch video: Wash and Learn

Image of the author ABOUT Darlene Kaskie
Darlene Kaskie, MLS, is the All of Us Community Engagement Coordinator for the Greater Midwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM). She supports the National Library of Medicine (NLM) by providing health professionals with access to biomedical information as well as improving public access to consumer health information. She also supports the NIH All of Us Research Program to advance medicine and improve individual treatment, prevention, and care for all by inviting libraries to engage with the network, connecting them with health information community partners, and providing training and funding to help raise awareness of the program. She has her Consumer Health Information Specialization from the Medical Library Association.

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This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Grant Number 1UG4LM012346 with The University of Iowa.

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