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Applying the International Handbook of Health Literacy to health library and knowledge services

Personal reflections by Ruth Carlyle

The International Handbook of Health Literacy was published at the beginning of August 2019. Thanks to funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the 740 page volume is available open access

The editors bring together a truly international set of papers in the 45 chapters. The volume is in four parts: research into health literacy, an overview of recent developments; programmes and interventions to promote health literacy; policy programmes to promote health literacy; and future dialogue and new perspectives.

As a collected work, the International Handbook of Health Literacy affirms the relevance of health literacy across a wide range of disciplines and ‘the potential that has been attributed to health literacy in order to understand, explain and tackle individual as well as group differences in various health outcomes’ (p. xxi). Despite this potential, there is no unanimously accepted definition or measurement of health literacy (p. xxii, 139). Most of the definitions also focus on the ‘literacy’ aspects of ‘health literacy’ rather than the ‘health’ aspects (p. 649).

In the closing chapter, Stephan Van der Bourke suggests that there are three types of strategy that can be applied to address low health literacy: better health communication; better health education for the general population; and creating health literacy-friendly settings (p. 706).

Considered from the perspective of library and information services, the specific references to libraries and librarians appear in the third section of the volume, on policy programmes to promote health literacy. It is notable that the most extensive references appear in Chapter 28 on the development and implementation of Making it easy and Making it easier as health literacy policies for Scotland. NHS Education for Scotland works with library and knowledge services across a range of sectors to improve ‘signposting to useful health information’ (p. 425) and identifies closer working with librarians as one of the areas for further development (p. 431). Librarians elsewhere are involved in supporting health literacy through training the healthcare workforce (National Network of Libraries of Medicine, United States, p. 499), embedding health literacy into research and practice (British Columbia, p. 447) and creating portals of resources (New Zealand, p. 508).

The multidisciplinary and international nature of the handbook provide a resource that emphasises the scale of low health literacy as an issue and the need for a shared approach working across disciplines. The individual chapters provide insights into research studies and the needs of specific audiences, such as children and older people. Themes through the volume provide evidence of the importance of improving the awareness and communication of healthcare professionals, signposting to high-quality health information for the public and creating health literacy-friendly environments. These reinforce the value of the roles that health library and knowledge services can play in health literacy.

National LKS Website – User Research Update

As you will know, the HEE Library and Knowledge Services’ Resource Discovery Team has been conducting some further user research to establish your requirements for the planned national LKS website.  To this end we have:

  1. Conducted 19 one-to-one interviews with stakeholders, and end users for identified gaps
  2. Ran 2 x user needs face-to-face workshops with a range of stakeholders and end users in Leeds and London (February 1 and 25) to generate user personas and user journey scenarios.  Users were from all regions of the country working in a variety of professional and paraprofessional library and knowledge services’ roles
  3. Ran 1 x user needs virtual workshop with a range of end users (April 10) to generate user-personas and user journey scenarios
  4. Analysis of a user needs validation survey with 172 responses
  5. Analysis of a pre-user discovery phase website functionality needs survey with 199 responses
  6. Created and prioritised 37 user stories with the HEE team

May we say a big thank you to all of who contributed to this research.  The data gathered form all of this activity has been drawn together and a report produced summarising our conclusions.  The report, National Library and Knowledge Services Website: User Research can be found on the KfH blog under Resource Discovery | Websites for Library staff.

27 user needs for the national LKS website were identified and prioritised into Must Haves; Should Haves and Could Haves  Most needs based on the validation survey have been prioritised must haves.

Top needs for the site:

  • Act as for a single point of access to LKS documents and resources whether national or regional.
  • Have good search functionality and filtering.
  • Be easy to use, to be written in plain English and to be visually appealing.  It must be kept up to date.
  • Work within the constraints of the ICT systems and policies in use within local NHS Trusts
  • Work well on mobile devices as well as the desktop
  • Download and upload documentation from and to the site easily
  • Users are alerted to any new and modified content in which they are interested
  • Communities of practice and collaborative tools are important.
  • Support career development and induction of those new to the profession
  • Offer a range of communication tools so that users can find out what’s going on. This must include mailing lists.
  • Calendars of events filtered by region must be available.
  • Allow users to connect to peers, find mentors, coaches, collaborators and others with skills to facilitate learning

This research and the report has now been presented to the Digital Communications Team at HEE and we are meeting next week to discuss how best to start work on developing a national LKS website which meets these identified needs.

Richard Bridgen on behalf of the HEE LKS Resource Discovery Team

Virtual Reality: its role in healthcare and healthcare libraries

A webinar held on 28th May 2019.

The Emerging Technologies Group recently held a webinar on Virtual Reality (VR).

The main speaker, Nick Peres, was very engaging about the opportunities that are open to us in using VR.

Several case studies of VR’s use by health libraries were also presented.

  • The Vision of HoloLens 2 (Susan Smith)
  • Loanable virtual reality headsets (Catherine Micklethwaite)
  • Oculus Go and Quest – practical uses of portable VR (John Barbrook)
  • VR – a two pronged approach (Mary Hill and Tim Jacobs)
  • Virtual Reality as a library resources (Ben Vella)

The video recording and slides can be found at: Emerging Technologies Group page