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Regional Medical Libraries Make a Difference

Stretching from the nation’s capital and adjacent Maryland and Virginia before dropping down along the Gulf Coast and into the deep south, and reaching over to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Southeastern/Atlantic (SE/A) Region is a rich mosaic of urban, rural, and remote areas.

Headquartered in Baltimore at the University of Maryland Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL), the SE/A Region supports collaboration among 34 resource libraries and more than 1,000 network members, including hospital libraries and community-based organizations, located across Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and West Virginia. The region includes three of the 10 wealthiest states or federal districts (DC, Maryland, and Virginia), as well as four of the poorest (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia).

NLM in Focus spoke recently with SE/A Director M.J. Tooey and Executive Director J. Dale Prince.

NLM in Focus: What makes your region unique and interesting?

We serve a huge geographic area with a fourth of the country’s people and some of its busiest, most populous cities, as well as remote rural areas, particularly in Appalachia and West Virginia. Our region contains important information and research centers, including the Library of Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the NLM.

Ours is a real mix, from federal agencies and world-class medical centers like the NIH to many special and underserved populations. Our region includes a large black population and is home to 72 percent of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Asian and Hispanic populations are growing, along with Cuban Americans and Haitians in Florida, Puerto Ricans, and residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each group has its own customs, culture, and sometimes language that we need to accommodate and understand. The region is full of contrasts.

NLM in Focus: Are there challenges specific to your region? If so, how have you overcome them?

We rely on a decentralized approach for delivering programs. The region is simply too large to approach our mission any other way. Most staff work out of our Baltimore headquarters, but we rely on our network members in each state to take the initiative and do the bulk of the outreach. They propose and monitor programs and stay connected. We assign a coordinator to each state or region to oversee projects and programs.

Our coordinators travel extensively to meet with people in their states or regions. We know them and understand their needs. Personal connections are so important for maintaining a robust health information outreach effort such as ours.

NLM in Focus: What are your proudest accomplishments?

Helping underserved military families. In recent years, we funded the Military Partners and Family Coalition (MPFC), an organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and similarly identified (LGBT) military families.

We got involved when we realized that many military families are “hidden” and consequently underserved. We worked to obtain MPFC and NN/LM funding, and then reached out to those families, gathered baseline data on their physical and mental health needs and whether they were being met, and produced the MPFC Community Health Care Study Report 2011-2012.

That in turn led us to a partnership with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which helped ensure the report’s use by social workers serving the military and veterans community. The MPFC results are now part of a larger, on-going military-wide study started in 2014 by the Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control and researchers from Palo Alto University. The study will assess sexual minority stress and changes in perceived stigma in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

We also are extremely proud to have helped support Marilyn Lance-Robb, founder/owner of MaFlo’s Health & Awareness Team/MaFlo’s Beauty Salon, and her work in Georgetown, SC. She is using computers with Wi-Fi internet access at MaFlo’s as part of an innovative program to bring health information to her customers.

In Parrottsville, TN, we support Karin Hoffman, the Director of the Migrant Health Program for Rural Medical Services, Inc. (RMS), which operates several primary care clinics in the state. Three of the RMS clinics have bilingual staff capable of serving Spanish speakers, and they provide outreach to the Hispanic population with home visits, emergency follow-up, outreach clinics at farm worker labor camps and housing areas, and health education.

We’re pleased with our program that pays the processing fees of many MLA Consumer Health Information Specializations and Disaster Information Specializations. We now are piloting a project in Maryland and West Virginia to provide free registration to any public librarian who wishes to acquire either or both of these specializations.

Our most important accomplishment, and one at which we are constantly working, is maintaining our quality standing in the eyes of our network members. Based upon Mid-Contract Review surveys of our network base and discussions with representative groups of members who dealt with us recently, either through funding or classes, we have maintained those important relationships. Although the new contract format was challenging to work with given our outreach needs, our members remain appreciative.

NLM in Focus: How has technology impacted your work?

Technology is always a challenge because there is always something new. We stay alert and scramble to keep up. For outreach though, we wouldn’t be where we are without technology. We use Adobe Connect for daily, weekly, and monthly meetings. Technology allows us to connect and serve our populations almost instantly. Members of the RML staff are accessible all of the time via Skype, text messages, and email. We use Facebook, Twitter, and our own blogs to spread the word or update our remote sites. Our SEA Currents newsletter blog is very popular.

We Skype a lot for remote, face-to-face meetings and we still fax occasionally. Accessibility is a serious issue, not just in remote regions but in cities, too. Some users can’t or won’t use technology; some still don’t have access to the Internet or mobile devices.

Verma Walker stands next to and gestures toward a 3-D printer on a nearby table.

NLM in Focus: Tell us about your recent community outreach projects.

What we do best is “build capacity.” That is, through our network, our educational outreach, and our funding, we enable network members to perform more and better outreach. We are proud of the way our network members are able to take our offerings and do wonderful things with them.

Our goal is to develop partnerships within the region. And when you speak of partnerships, we have a great variety. We already mentioned Marilyn Lance-Robb and Karin Hoffman, but we also support people like Rick Wallace, who received the 2013 Michael E. DeBakey Library Services Outreach Award from the Friends of the National Library of Medicine. He has devoted his life to serving rural and underserved populations. Rick’s project, “A Simple Plan,” provided instruction for public librarians across the 500-mile width of Tennessee. His team traveled thousands of miles over a 6-year period, performing outreach to roughly 1,000 people and helped 250 receive the MLA Consumer Health Information Specialization. He also works with 20 rural hospitals, 20 rural clinics, and many public health departments to provide remote library access. Additionally, he’s gone on to target specific consumer health populations. He says that none of this would be possible without NN/LM.

We provide training and professional development opportunities to those who directly provide health information to the public, including network and other librarians, health professionals (including public health professionals), educators, health advocates, and those working with various community-based organizations. Part of that effort involves helping people understand the Affordable Care Act, its benefits, and how to apply and obtain primary care and preventive services.

NLM in Focus: Any further thoughts about your region and the work you do?

It is always about the people, always about making it easier for people to access quality health information. People in the region know our staff. We are not some distant entity. We try to connect, to understand their needs and ask them, “How can we help?” There always is a need for good programs and health information, and that’s what drives us.

We meet new people and hear new ideas. We forge relationships and, together, we make a difference.

Photo caption: Southeastern/Atlantic Region Executive Director Dale Prince and Communications Coordinator Tony Nguyen promote NLM resources at a conference.

Julia PellegriniCollaboration, Education, Global & Community Engagement, People, Research, TechnologyJuly 13, 20150 comments
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Ebola Cell image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Center for Health and Homeland Security Monitors Ebola

Public Health experts at the University’s Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) have been closely following news of the first few cases of Ebola in the US. Sharing thoughts on response protocols, policy best practices, and legal authorities that can be used to curb the spread of infectious diseases, read the Center’s blog.

Ebola Blog Posts From CHHS

Arsenal of Legal Tools Available to Combat Ebola in the U.S.

This week, 132 passengers who had traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth received word that a passenger on the plane, Amber Vinson, had tested positive for Ebola. Vinson, a nurse who had helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan while he was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, says she received the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) permission to board the flight after calling to report that she was running a low-grade fever of 99.5 degrees, which is below the CDC’s fever threshold of 100.4 degrees.

While Americans have understandably responded to this news with concern for their own safety and questions, the public should find some reassurance in knowing that the current framework of federal and state laws provides a variety of tools which can be used to help prevent the further spread of Ebola within the United States (U.S.). …

Quarantine and Isolation, an (Almost) Timeless Tool in Combating Communicable Disease

Laws on quarantine and isolation are nothing new in the United States. However, at the time of the country’s founding, quarantine and isolation authority was viewed primarily as the responsibility of local and state governments. The ability of the states to impose quarantine and isolation was and is based on their broad “police powers” reserved in the Tenth Amendment.

However, states’ authority to impose quarantine and isolation does not mean that the federal government has no such authority. Very early on, the federal government recognized that it needed to have some ability to impose quarantine and isolation to protect public health…

Preparing Health Care Workers for Ebola – From Janitors to Nurses

Scientist with Protective GearThe announcement that a second healthcare worker in Texas has been diagnosed with Ebola comes on the heels of a concerning statistic: three out of four nurses in the U.S. are saying they haven’t received proper education from their hospital on an Ebola response. Thirty percent say they don’t believe their hospitals have sufficient supplies, such as protective eyewear and fluid-proof gowns.

Spanish nurses had similar thoughts several months ago. In July, 100 Spanish nurses asked a court to review its defenses, because they believed Ebola was likely to arrive in Spain, and felt the healthcare system was ill-equipped to handle the response. The warning is now being seen as “prescient,” as Spanish authorities deal with a situation similar to that in Texas. …

Government Investments Pay Dividends In Fight Against Ebola

The Ebola epidemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people and is so widespread that some have speculated it could lead to the collapse of the Liberian state. The crisis has demonstrated the importance of having effective countermeasures to virulent diseases. Without countermeasures, Ebola’s death rate can be as high as 90 percent. Though the dangers of Ebola have been known for decades and even popularized, the pharmaceutical industry has paid little attention to developing countermeasures for the disease.

The lack of interest to develop Ebola countermeasures from the pharmaceutical industry is based on return on investment for such products. The pharmaceutical industry has high barriers to entry. The development of novel drugs can cost a major company between four and eleven billion dollars, and most research projects never make it past the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. High development costs cause corporations to choose what diseases they will develop new drugs for carefully. The FDA has pointed out that the characteristics of the marketplace for diseases such as Ebola, in concert with the high barriers to entry for development, causes pharmaceutical companies to forgo investment in treatments. …

A Difference of Degrees

As news spread that a Texas health care worker had contracted Ebola when treating Michael Eric Duncan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. needs to re-think its infection controls. The health care worker likely contracted the virus during a breach in protocols, although the CDC is quick to state it is not blaming the health care worker. Rather, the case underscores the difficulty of providing medical care for those sick with this highly infectious disease, and the importance of clear protocols that are closely followed by everyone…

Have a question for CHHS about Ebola in relation to public health and infectious disease control policies? Email us at – it could be the topic of a future blog.
Danielle LuekingClinical Care, Education, Research, Technology, UMB News, University LifeOctober 17, 20140 comments
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Kids to Farmers’ Market Program Combats Childhood Obesity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2010. Obese youths are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea.

Social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem and being ostracized by peers also are worse with obesity. In addition, obese youths are more likely to be obese as adults, when they would be subject to the same health risks.

A Project to Instill a Healthy Lifestyle

Kids_4749-elmA healthy lifestyle, focusing on good eating and exercise, is the best strategy for obesity prevention. Communities, schools, and medical care providers can all influence these behaviors in children. To that end, on behalf of Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), Jennifer Litchman, MA, special assistant to Perman and chief communications officer and vice president in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, assembled a UMB and University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) team to create the Kids to Farmers’ Market project, which focuses on improving the eating habits and physical activity of inner city schoolchildren on Baltimore’s Westside.

The team, assembled in 2012, has so far planned and executed two successful Kids to Farmers’ Market seasons. The program’s initial goals were to expose the children to local, sustainable foods, and to teach them about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. During the past year, the team offered more educational sessions in two local schools, with a focus on healthy eating and physical activity.

How the Program Works

A University bus brings a fourth or fifth grade class, along with teachers and chaperones, to the weekly farmers’ market in University Plaza. The Kids to Farmers’ Market team gives each student a backpack stuffed with healthy-eating information, seasonal fruit and vegetable recipes, and $10 of “farmers’ market bucks” that can be used to buy items. The children are divided into three groups: one group shops, one attends a chef’s cooking demonstration, and one goes to a nutrition class led by a registered dietitian or nutrition intern. The groups rotate until all students complete each activity. At the end of the session, the types of foods the students bought are documented, and each child receives a healthy lunch to take back to school.

Shopping at the Market

In the first year, the children were told to limit their market purchases to fruits and vegetables. The first question a student asked was, “Can I buy the pickles?” Since pickles are vegetables, the answer was “yes.” This year, the children were allowed to buy anything at the market, with the hope that after being educated about healthy eating, they would make more fruit and vegetable choices. There were too many temptations though, so next year the rules might need to be reconsidered.

The children chatted with the farmers, asking them about the locations of their farms and the types of crops they grow. The farmers often gave the students a piece of fruit to try, or reduced the prices of their produce. The children asked questions about odd-looking vegetables, and they talked about ways their families cook vegetables at home. While the students shopped, the UMB/UMMC team shared healthy cooking ideas.

The Chef’s Demo

KFM_4867-elmDanielle Clair, catering chef at CulinArt dining services, developed an interactive component of the Kids to Farmers’ Market program. By preparing a seasonal recipe and explaining each step, she taught the children cooking techniques while describing each ingredient as she went along. Recipes she prepared and offered for tasting included watermelon salad kabobs, cheesy spaghetti squash, and pumpkin dip with fresh apples.

One student was hesitant to taste the spaghetti squash, but after high-spirited cheering from his classmates, he ate some and said it was “pretty good.” Many of the children were excited to share the recipes with their families.

The Nutrition Class

UMMC dietetic interns and registered dietitians developed and presented the class this year, emphasizing the following: benefits of eating local and seasonal fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market, the need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors, and the importance of making the plate for every meal be half fruits and vegetables. Some of the questions asked by the children were: “Are any fruits and vegetables good for your eyes?” “How do fruits and vegetables help us play sports?” “What’s the difference between canned and fresh fruit and vegetables?”

This year, to supplement the healthy lifestyle messages of Kids to Farmers’ Market, team members went to the two schools and led nutrition education, physical fitness instruction, and herb and vegetable planting activities. The program also presented Foodplay, a school assembly program that showcased the benefits of healthy eating habits and active lifestyles through music, magic, and live theater.

The Kids to Farmers’ Market team is evaluating the program’s effectiveness before the farmer’s market reopens this spring. “Our hope is that this UMB/UMMC initiative will enable us to make a meaningful difference in the health of school children right here in our own neighborhood,” says Litchman.

UMB Members

The UMB team members are Litchman; Office of Communications and Public Affairs staff members Holly Baier, assistant director of special events, Saifa Bikim-Edeze, office manager, and Nancy Gordon, executive director of protocol and special events; Greer Huffman, community outreach coordinator, Office of the President; and Brian Sturdivant, MSW, director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, Office of Government and Community Affairs.

UMMC Members

The UMMC team members are Denise Choiniere, MS, RN, materials management director; Christine Dobmeier, RD, LDN, CSR, senior nutrition specialist; Justin Graves, RN, BSN, sustainability coordinator; LaVette Jackson, customer service program coordination; Ellen Loreck, MS, RD, LDN, director, clinical nutrition services; and Anne Williams, DNP, RN, senior manager, community empowerment and health education.

Ellen LoreckFor B'more, Global & Community Engagement, UMB NewsJanuary 28, 20140 comments
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