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Health Center library’s outreach program gains national recognition

by Kristina Goodnough - April 3, 2006

After guiding traffic on the information highway for more than 20 years, Healthnet, the Health Center library’s free outreach program, has been recognized in a national health awards competition.

The program is one of 10 finalists chosen by the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS).

“This is wonderful recognition for our program, which we think provides an invaluable service to the residents of Connecticut,” says Alberta Richetelle, director of Healthnet.

“When our program started in 1985, we had six or eight drawers of pamphlets plus medical texts that we could use to answer consumers’ questions,” she says.

“Now we have the Internet, multiple electronic databases and a host of online sources from government agencies, academic institutions, and organizations.

“There’s been a real explosion in health information but our goal is the same,” adds Richetelle.

“We try to help people evaluate the resources that are available and locate health and medical information that is accurate and up-to-date.”

Help is provided through librarian-to librarian outreach programs designed to develop local public libraries as primary access points for consumer health information.

Several times a year, Richetelle and Healthnet librarian Judith Kronick offer training for librarians in medical reference tools and techniques.

They prepare subject bibliographies on consumer health topics and help identify and evaluate sources of consumer health information; provide consultation on collection development and presentation of community health programs; and four times a year, they publish a newsletter to keep librarians informed about new consumer health information issues and resources.

“Our goal is to help them work effectively with their own library users,” says Richetelle.

Students studying at the Health Center library.
Students studying at the Health Center library.
Photo by Al Ferreira

Healthnet also researches hundreds of topics every year for Connecticut residents. Typical questions are:

  • What are the long-term effects of surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome?
  • My 13-month-old son was just diagnosed with celiac disease. Do you have any information on this condition?
  • What current treatments are recommended for Parkinson’s Disease?”

“People are hungry for information but they don’t always know where to turn for answers,” says Richetelle.

For individuals interested in doing their own research, Healthnet maintains a website with extensive, authoritative health information. It describes the library’s consumer health resources and provides links to news sources that lead to user-friendly summaries of current medical research, as well as a list of recommended consumer health websites on nutrition, heart disease, complementary therapies, and related health topics.

Healthnet’s nomination earned Richetelle an invitation to participate in the Health Information Forum at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., next month.

Connecticut residents who want information about a personal health concern may contact Healthnet at 860-679-4055 or visit the website:   http://library.uchc.edu/departm/hnet.

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