A Beacon of Community Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Mobilizing Just for the Health of It: Health Information Library on Wheels

Monday, March 16, 2020, was a day unlike any other in the history of the East Brunswick Public Library. With a mere few days’ notice of a looming pandemic, the library’s doors were closed to the public. Yet exciting things were abuzz, and the library would soon reopen virtually to reveal its resiliency and responsiveness in a time of crisis.

First, the librarians created a Coronavirus section on the library’s health portal, which points residents to local, state, and federal agencies for timely information and resources. The Just for the Health of It portal is a component of the Health Information Library on Wheels (HILOW) initiative, which aims to equip people with information to become better consumers of health and social services to live the best life possible.

New content is added to the portal daily. The portal lists 1) COVID-19 testing sites, 2) locations where individuals who are undocumented or uninsured can receive testing and treatment, 3) available services to help with daily challenges, 4) mental health support and 5) information to avoid foreclosures and evictions. A Small Business Recovery section links to the CARES Act and the COVID-19 Jobs and Hiring Portal.

In addition, the librarians’ health literacy outreach programs have moved to a virtual format, starting with the “Lunch ‘N Learn with The Doctors” series. In partnership with the Regional Cancer Care Associates and Princeton Radiation Oncology, the weekly program features panels of oncologists who answer questions about undergoing cancer treatment during the current pandemic. Other programs in the series include: ABC’s of Diabetes; Shopping and Nutrition During COVID-19; and HPV and Cancer Prevention.

With the schools and libraries closed, the youth services librarians are working to address the physical and mental well-being of young children by providing fun and interactive virtual programs. “Activity Wednesday” challenged kids to post pictures of themselves engaged in exercise, and to encourage Mindfulness, the librarians presented virtual classes on watercolor painting and how to make origami tulips. Medical students from Rutgers created the video, “How to Be a Super Friend,” to teach young children about autism.

The library’s health portal has emerged as a beacon of community health during these unprecedented times of social isolation when health equity is most threatened.  Their virtual programs and activities are just a click away and continue to inspire hope and good health by bringing information, connections and companionship to the community.

The Grantee Blog regularly publishes updates from NJHI-supported communities. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Karen Parry
East Brunswick Public Library