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Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog

Health Literacy Through The National Library Of Medicine

The National Library of Medicine staff agrees with Howard K. Koh and colleagues that federal initiatives can improve Americans’ health literacy and help the nation move beyond the current cycle of crisis care (Feb 2011). There are comprehensive, evidence-based, noncommercial, free, US government sponsored online resources that meet the spirit of the authors’ call for action.

The library offers health literacy inspired Internet services that are not mentioned in the article. For example, MedlinePlus.gov is a gateway to information about more than 900 diseases and conditions, as well as public health challenges. MedlinePlus also provides background information about medications, vitamins, and food supplements. It is available in English and Spanish, has health summaries in forty-three other languages, and provides easy-to-read medical information. In addition, MedlinePlus Connect links electronic health records to consumer information within MedlinePlus.gov via free, open-source software.

Another service from the National Library of Medicine is Clinicaltrials.gov, a gateway to clinical trials in the United States and other nations. This website was the first to provide standardized clinical trial results.

The library also offers Genetics Home Reference, a guide to genetic conditions and human genetics written for lay audiences, and Pub Med Health, which enhances consumer decision support by providing one-stop access to international systematic reviews and clinical effectiveness information.

These wide-ranging consumer services exist because federal agencies, institutes, and centers within the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services are committed to enhancing the nation’s health literacy.

Robert A. Logan
National Library of Medicine
BETHESDA, MARYLAND

The online version of this article, along with updated information and services, is available at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/31/5/1128.3.full.html
or download it here.

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