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Expanding Access to the Public Health Workforce in the MidContinental Region

Many of our readers know that the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) has a two-part mission, the first part being “to advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information.”  The MidContinental  Region staff along with the Eccles Health Sciences Library and partner libraries in our six state region are supporting unaffiliated health professionals, via the Loansome Doc program, and other services for accessing information. The public health work force in state health departments have the need to access for evidence based public health practice as well.

Public Health Digital Library Map

Geographical Distribution of Public Health Digital Library Members

Javier Crespo, Manager of the NNLM’s National Public Health Coordination Office and staff, creatively provide resources that public health workers around the country can use for their research. Javier recently promoted his program and services by presenting at the MidContinental Region’s monthly webinar series Breezing Along with the RML. Here are some key points shared about the program:

  • The program, initiated in 2011, is currently using the Public Health Digital Library (PHDL) of evidence based resources. The user base has grown to include 26 public health sites around the country during the current fiscal year.
  • Each subscribing member has a partner library who works with them to assist with getting full text articles when not available from the PHDL collection. The library partner may also provide reference and support services for the member. Current members in the MidContinental Region are the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment along with the Utah Department of Health. Partner libraries for them are UC Poudre Valley Health Library in Colorado and the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah.
  • The program is not free and requires commitment by a potential member in several areas. The NPHCO negotiates the price for the public health department the based on its FTEs. The program is to be sustainable at each member site.
  • Feedback from the users is very positive. One of them stated: “It’s huge! [the collection] You can get needed articles in minutes, rather than having to beg, borrow or steal them.” Another user said “A lot of people were using resources they could get for free which was not really full evidence. Now we have a fuller picture of whatever topic we were researching.”
  • The program is growing incrementally, adding a small number public health departments every year.

Essentials in Program Implementation: Teamwork

Public Health Digital Library logoThe NPHCO staff play a vital role in implementing the PHDL model. They supply the in-house support to users and also provide online training and instruction for the resources along with managing the resources in the PHDL. This is not the kind of service that you buy and then find out later that the support is lackluster or non-existent if something goes wrong. The NPHCO staff is accessible and helps users to troubleshoot problems. The NPHCO staff frequently assesses the PHDL for the right mix of resources so that the collection is sustainable. They routinely ask for feedback from members to meet their needs.

A public health department also has to agree to several responsibilities before initiation of membership in the program. The department must provide:

  • A designated IT person. (The PHDL collection is housed in an employee intranet environment)
  • An arrangement with a partner library who will assist with document delivery when an article cannot be accessed via the PHDL. (Library partners are predominantly academic health sciences libraries.)
  • An education contact who will collaborate with NPHCO and the partner library to ensure that health department personnel understand how to search in and use the collection to their greatest advantage.
  • Member health departments are obligated to promote the PHDL throughout their organizations so that everyone is aware of and can access PHDL resources.

The NPHCO is a strong example of a NNLM office with a complex system of many moving parts, but yet has exemplary teamwork. The idea is to recruit and expand membership every year and make sure that the program is sustainable. We hope that the NPHCO will be recruiting and accepting more members from the MIdContinental Region. That can be done with your help. Encourage your state public health work force to review the services of the NPHCO and contact their office with questions, if they are seeking quality resources for their research evidence-based practice. To recap- public health departments in two states (Colorado & Utah) in the MCR are currently subscribers to the PHDL. The state public health departments of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Wyoming are not yet members. We hope that fact will change with further expansion of the program in the region!

-Jim Honour, Wyoming/Member Services Coordinator

The MidContinental Messenger is published quarterly by the Network of the National Library of Medicine MidContinental Region

Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
University of Utah
10 North 1900 East, Building 589
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5890

Editor: Suzanne Sawyer, Project Coordinator
(801) 587-3487

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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