Good health starts at the community level, and the East Brunswick Public Library is using a grant by New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) to bring more people the information they need to make more informed health choices.
The library, a partner in the Healthier Middlesex coalition, created the Just for the Health of It program because people lacking reliable information to make their own health decisions are at risk of poorer health, including longer recoveries and hospitalizations after illnesses, more frequent hospital readmissions, and overall lower quality of life. Now, with the NJHI grant, the program is hitting the road all across Middlesex County in the form of the Mobilizing Just for the Health of It: Health Information Library on Wheels (HILOW) project.
Through this project, consumer health librarians receive special training and professional certification from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and participate in monthly webinars to build upon their research knowledge of high-quality medical websites and National Institutes of Health resources. Webinar topics span the entire life cycle, from birth through aging, and include health information for new immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, and everyone who faces potential health issues.
The librarians venture out weekly to places in Middlesex County where people of all ages, languages and cultures gather — community fairs, senior centers, shopping malls, schools, support groups, conferences, movie showings, and book fairs. Librarians answer health questions on the spot, or conduct more intensive research at the library to answer via email or postal system. HILOW provides information people need to become better informed consumers of health services and makes health information less intimidating, more inclusive, and — most important — equitably available, so everyone has the chance to live their best life possible.
The librarians engaged with 1,337 people between December 2018 and April 2019 and are making a big difference.
If you live in Middlesex County HILOW might soon be coming to a location near you, where you, too, can ask a librarian, Just for the Health of It.