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Penn Libraries News

Celebrate Health Literacy Month with the Penn Libraries!

A drawing of a person in a cape skipping a stone over the words, Start a ripple of health literacy.

With Health Literacy Month just around the corner, the Penn Libraries invites you to celebrate with us! October is Health Literacy Month, a time dedicated for us to think about health literacy, the set of skills we use to find and understand information to make health-related decisions for ourselves, our loved ones, and/or our patients.  

Since 2018, the Penn Libraries has been observing Health Literacy Month with various programs. This year, as in recent years, we’re kicking off Health Literacy Month by participating in the #citeNLM Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, an initiative of the Network of the National Library of Medicine to promote accurate health information on Wikipedia, one of the world’s most popular websites. Over the years, the Penn Medicine Patient & Family Education Committee, an interprofessional committee comprised of patient education specialists, nurses, librarians, and more, and the Public Health Young Leaders Association, has promoted this Wikipedia Edit-a-thon held at Penn. Currently, the training slides for the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon are available online. I welcome you to join the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon as an asynchronous volunteer next month.

Over the past two years, several Penn Libraries staff members have been involved in the Philadelphia Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 (Philly CEAL), an NIH-funded initiative jointly led by Penn Nursing and Philly Counts. Most recently, the team of Penn librarians created the first draft of an online guide for finding and understanding health information with input from both the faculty and staff at Penn Nursing, the staff at the Blackwell Regional Library of West Philadelphia, and the members of the Penn Medicine Patient Advisory Committee. Soon, the guide will be available online, and the Penn Libraries will welcome further feedback to improve it. Later this semester, the guide will be populated with a list of up-to-date health-related books for children and teens that will be available in the fall with accompanying resources at select local school libraries, thanks to Philly CEAL funding and the Penn Libraries Community Engagement team’s collaborative partnerships with the Philadelphia Public Schools staff and West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC).

In October the Penn Libraries team involved in Philly CEAL is also partnering with Penn Medicine’s Patient & Family Education Committee to engage with children and adults on how to find accurate health information and identify misinformation. Stay tuned for more details.

Beyond Philadelphia, I will be facilitating a 90-minute pre-conference interactive workshop for community health workers at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. The Community Core is hosting a conference titled “How to Find and Use Trustworthy Health Information: Tools for Community Health Workers.” The workshop will focus on personal health literacy with a focus on tools that can help community health workers build their health literacy toolbox and advance health literacy in the communities they work with, and will include a discussion on the impact of artificial intelligence on health literacy and evaluating online health information.  

Outside of Health Literacy Month, the Penn Libraries works on health literacy year-round via consultations and other initiatives. Last winter, a staff member at the “We Need Books” Library — a library serving the ever-growing multilingual and multicultural immigrant and refugee communities in Athens, Greece — asked to me to help them brainstorm how to incorporate community health topics in simple programs and collections such as Walk with a Doc and an updated collection of children’s health books, one of Philly CEAL’s goals. When the Penn SNF Paideia Program’s staff and recent alumni attended the SNF Nostos Conference in Athens over the summer, they made an excursion to meet with the “We Need Books” Library staff to discuss future collaborations. The SNF Paideia Program is excited to host one of the librarians from the “We Need Books” Library for an in-person campus visit in the near future.

The Health Literacy Council of Delaware invited me to serve on the Education and Training Subcommittee to review resources with a focus on supporting the integration of health literacy into K-12 and higher education curricula.

Interested in learning more about health literacy and patient education, particularly in the areas of oral health and dental medicine? Join the Health Literacy Study Club to earn Continuing Education (CE) credits via Penn Dental Medicine. Last February, the staff at the Leon Levy Library of Dental Medicine launched this interactive journal club in collaboration with Dr. Joan Gluch, Chief of the Community Oral Health Division at the School of Dental Medicine. This club has had attendees from around the world and from multiple disciplinary backgrounds discussing the REALD-30 (Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Dentistry) oral health literacy assessment; health information available on social media; and the impact of artificial intelligence, interprofessional education, and service learning on health literacy levels of clinicians and patients. The Health Literacy Study Club has been promoted by the Institute of Healthcare Advancement (IHA) at its 2023 Health Literacy Annual Conference and its Health Literacy Solutions Center, a free online discussion forum focused on all aspects of health literacy.

The Levy Library’s peer-to-peer ambassadors, dental students who support special projects, programs, and initiatives, are currently working a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video encouraging fellow dental students and practitioners at Penn to talk to patients about oral cancer screenings.

Over the past year at the Levy Library, I have also provided digital and print oral health information materials to clinicians and student organizations upon request. Looking for consumer health information? Visit this Consumer & Patient Health Information Sources guide. If you would like any assistance in finding consumer health information or collaborators in the area of health literacy, schedule a virtual appointment. For more information on the Levy Library, follow @penn_dental_library on Instagram.