Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Foundation leads a two-year project that unleashes the skills and talents of public librarians to advance health equity among residents of Greater Middlesex County. The project mobilizes a grassroots health literacy initiative called Just for the Health of It created by the East Brunswick Public Library, a single branch public library in central New Jersey. The program caught the eye of Healthier Middlesex, a coalition of 65 stakeholders including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, the National Network of Library of Medicine (NNLM), the Middlesex County Health Department, local municipalities, health systems, libraries, academic institutions, and local community based organizations. The program fills a need for access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health information that was the result of a 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment facilitated by the coalition. Just for the Health of It mobilizes a team of public librarians who venture out on a weekly basis into the community where people at risk for poor health often gather, including senior centers, malls, community fairs, libraries, and hospital lobbies. While onsite, librarians answer health questions, disseminate articles in multiple languages about healthy lifestyle or medical conditions, and provide customized health research that is uniquely tailored to each person’s literacy level, native language, or visual or physical impairments. Librarians receive ongoing training in consumer health research through NNLM in all life stages, plus mental and refugee health. The project aims to break down health disparities by empowering each person with the knowledge to understand and act on critical health and wellness information to achieve the healthiest life possible.
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NJ Biz. (2018, December 3).