Evaluating health information literacy training in underserved communities

Authors


Abstract

This poster addresses issues related to measuring how e-Health can be a tool for reducing health disparities in minority communities in a state in the US. In the context of the 2009 ASIS&T meeting, it relates to the topics of taking a multidisciplinary approach to developing, delivering, and evaluating health information resource education in under-served communities. This poster summarizes the data collected and provides a progress report on a yearlong effort to evaluate the utility of a program to disseminate information about the resources available through the NLM's information portals.

Introduction

Low literacy, (including health literacy and computer technology skills), is among the top reasons that minority communities may not be accessing health information on-line. Additionally, the amount of information available on-line can be overwhelming and intimidating, creating an even greater reluctance to utilize electronic health information such as that available through the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) information portals. Medline Plus and other health information resources provided by the National Library of Medicine are under-utilized sources of health information for the lay public. Differences in literacy levels and socio-economic status also help perpetuate a “knowledge gap” and contribute to health disparities within minority communities.

This poster addresses issues related to measuring how e-Health can be a tool for reducing health disparities in minority communities in a state in the US. In the context of the 2009 ASIS&T meeting, it relates to the topics of taking a multidisciplinary approach to developing, delivering, and evaluating health information resource education in under-served communities. This poster summarizes the data collected and provides a progress report on a yearlong effort to evaluate the utility of a program to disseminate information about the resources available through the NLM's information portals.

The Eagles e-health project was part of a wider effort supported by the NLM and the United Negro College Fund Special Projects Corporation (UNCFSPC) to disseminate health information to communities that may have been unaware of the availability of such resources. The project developed special training sessions intended to educate key community members in the use of numerous offerings from the NLM, including their flagship public health information source, MedlinePLUS. The goal of the Eagles e-Health research project is that with introductory training, workers in schools, libraries and community health centers can lead information seekers to the more reliable, authoritative resources provided online by the NLM. Furthermore, these users are likely to have technological skills and access to resources in the economically disadvantaged areas where many health literacy disparities exist. Ultimately, the team hopes to improve health in such areas in the state with proven methods for health information retrieval training and by introducing the technology of digital libraries. Such communities are arguably the best audience for such resources, as the NLM's offerings are free and authoritative. Furthermore, it is desirable to increase awareness of such resources because they are of high quality and repute, characteristics that do not always describe health information available on the Internet.

The researchers were part of a cross-disciplinary research team from the schools of Public Health Education, Psychology, and Library & Information Science. One of the stated goals of the NLM and the UNCFSPC for this project was to increase awareness of information sources by establishing a minimal level of proficiency in at least two databases, so the an integral part of the project involved assessing the effort with intervention evaluation analysis tools. The purpose of this study was to measure the effectiveness of a program intended to increase health information literacy among under-served populations. Researchers with expertise in the fields of health statistics and health librarianship developed metrics to evaluate awareness of and proficiency with such resources.

Methods

Methods:

One of the primary goals of the Eagles E-health project is to increase health information literacy, specifically regarding the use of the NLM's public health information portal, MedlinePLUS. To this end, participants' familiarity and with the World Wide Web accessible and particularly NLM information portals were measured before and four months after the training had taken place. The pre- and post-tests were similar and intended to measure any increase in awareness of and use of NLM health information resources after subjects are involved in the training sessions. Proficiency tests were developed for a number of the databases to which participants were exposed, including Medline Plus, SeniorHealth, Toxnet, GoLocal and the Drug Information database. The post-test and proficiency tests were then delivered through a webpage developed by team members so that postal remittance of surveys was not required.

The post-hoc testing was intended to assess increased awareness of NLM information resources. Proficiency test questions were either developed from the content provided from these websites during the training or were culled from self-test portions of the NLM database websites. Participants were first given a battery of questions specific to the NLM's flagship public health information portal, MedlinePlus.org. Respondents then were presented with one or two sets of questions based on the content of other health information resources that had been presented during the training session.

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