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SEA Currents June 16th, 2019
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ALA Midwinter Recap: Implicit Bias, Health Disparities and Health Literacy

Posted by on February 27th, 2019 Posted in: All of Us, Funding


In partnership with the All of Us Research Program, NNLM SEA recently awarded 15 Professional Development Awards for library staff to attend ALA Midwinter 2019 in Seattle. In addition to the full conference, each individual using award money attended the preconference session “Implicit Bias, Health Disparities and Health Literacy.” During this preconference, participants learned about implicit bias’s connection to health equity and explored how libraries can deepen their work in health literacy to ensure a lasting impact for improving the health of their community.

In this post we hear from awardees on their biggest takeaways from the preconference session, including strategies for addressing implicit bias and ideas for tackling health equity at their own libraries.


The pre-conference workshop on implicit bias made me more aware of the connection between implicit bias and health equity, particularly in minority populations, and the importance of using health data to reduce those gaps. I gained knowledge of various health data tools and resources, and how to utilize health literacy as a tool to address health disparities.

Monica Riley
Serials Librarian
Morehouse School of Medicine | M. Delmar Edwards, M.D., Library

Michele Spatz’s talk during the workshop, “Health Literacy as a Librarian’s Health Equity Tool” demonstrated how librarians can improve patients’ health literacy skills to address health disparities. This talk provided an overview of health literacy and its implications and the speaker provided resources and tools librarians can use to provide better services and programs to their patrons. The workshop was a valuable experience that not only provided information that librarians can use to improve service to the communities they serve but also provided a time for librarians to network with one another and explore ideas that libraries can do to address health inequities.

Dana Ladd
Associate Professor
VCU Libraries | Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences

Racism has deeply inundated all of the institutions of America, and one big takeaway from the pre-conference is that implicit bias training is not enough. To talk of achieving health equity, our society has to deeply interrogate all the systems that touch our marginalized populations. We need to critically analyze the medical education curricula and the implicit biases many of our medical educators hold. We need to deeply analyze medical guidelines that were created without the science of black and brown voices (and their bodies). This deep interrogation must touch the library as well. We have to question the information, the studies, the reports and the papers that use mostly white populations. I like that this conversation has started, but we have to go further.

Erin Smith
Health Sciences Research Librarian
Virginia Tech University Libraries   

I developed a greater understanding of health literacy, understanding that is multidimensional. Libraries, specifically public libraries, have the ability to remove the barriers preventing individuals from knowing and understanding their own health. I encourage everyone to take the first step in overcoming implicit biases, by identify and acknowledge those biases. You can do this at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.

Angela Glowcheski
Deputy Director
Sequoyah Regional Library System

The implicit bias section of the pre-conference encouraged participants to acknowledge that we all have biases, that this does not make us bad people, and provided some strategies on how to C.H.E.C.K. them:

CONNECT- Identify & acknowledge your own biases
HONOR- Recognizing when your bias is triggered
ENGAGE- Disconfirm, counter-stereotyping and perspective taking of the situation
COMMUNICATE with people with
KINDNESS

Kelsa Bartley
Manager, Library Services
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine | Louis Calder Memorial Library

I felt led to reach out to the All of Us program in my state and offer to collaborate and build a partnership with libraries/librarians. The pre-conference showed me that building this partnership would have a great impact on health care in my state.

Tamara Nelson
Instruction & Research Librarian
University of Mississippi Medical Center | Rowland Medical Library

I was struck by the statistic that 88 out of 100 people lack needed health literacy skills. This is especially important because, as we know, implicit bias is widespread even among healthcare professionals, putting underserved populations at a great disadvantage when it comes to their medical care. Fortunately, libraries can help. Partnerships, health literacy programming, and having a seat at the table are all ways that libraries can support health equity in their communities.

Rachel Millard Placchetti
Adult Services, Department Head
Central Rappahannock Regional Library

My biggest takeaways from attending the preconference involved the realization that while implicit bias may be unintentional, subtle, and unconscious, the implications of society’s implicit biases results in explicit policies and regulations reflecting those biases. Many rules, regulations, and policies are the product of societal implicit bias. Recognizing instances where these rules, regulations, and policies serve as a means to deny the provision of the most effective library service possible to patrons requiring information is ultimately the turning point at which we can acknowledge where we may have internalized these biases as acceptable. Through introspection, we can acknowledge what may trigger or activate our implicit biases, thereby, giving us an opportunity to check these biases and provide a more equitable information service by listening, understanding where we might make incorrect assumptions about patron priorities, and communicating with empathy and kindness.

Athanasia Fitos
Librarian III
Miami-Dade Public Library System

While typically uncomfortable when reflecting with strangers, speaking amongst the group about times we’ve witnessed or experienced an implicit bias really helped me understand how bias is built-in to everyone, and we can only combat it by confronting and analyzing it. The speakers were diverse in background but singular in the message that as information professionals, we have the ability and obligation to develop smart partnerships in our communities to address bias and disparity.

Hilary Jasmin
Assistant Professor
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

 

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