Jul 08 2009
Information: interactions and impact – i3 Conference sessions (information literacy and health)
There were several sessions I attended that looked at the issues surrounding information literacy and health / health issues.
Audrey Marshall – Weighing in to the literacy debate: findings from a research study on the role of ICTs for weight management
The Net.Weight project is a University of Brighton project funded by the Department of Health (England) investigating the potential of information technology to support self-care in weight management. This is an interesting project which John and I have had some involvement with in an advisory capacity. The project has been running for two years and is nearly finished. For me some of the interesting findings are in relation to peer support rather than medical support, the provision of information and the workshops they ran to develop critical engagement with health information as the following quote from the paper highlights.
it is clear that information itself is not the main issue, since people who are involved in weight management already have a good level of understanding about the causes of weight gain and the ways in which weight can be reduced and managed. People can, however, be encouraged to engage critically with existing information and ICT resources and make suggestions for improved design and services. On a more conceptual level, the Net.Weight research suggests that a collective, as opposed to an individual, approach to the issue of health literacy may be a useful alternative way to both understanding and improving it.
Dr Kristina Eriksson-Backa – Elderly people, health information, and libraries: a small-scale study on seniors in a language minority
This was about a small scale study of the health information literacy of a group of elderly people, Swedish-speaking minority in Finland who took part in a questionnaire about where they got their health information from.
Most respondents showed good abilities of knowing when they needed health information, and also to which sources to turn to … These were mainly health professionals and other medical sources, whereas libraries played a fairly small role as a source.
They also used media sources, family and friends and the Internet. The results are said to be similar to other studies and that “further research is needed to find out how libraries could reach out to the growing group of elderly people”. The study made me think about the collaborative work that is going on between some libraries and health trusts / medical practices in Scotland and England (not sure about the rest of the UK) in relation to the provision of health information. I asked the presenter about this but she was unaware of this work. The other thought I had was whether the age of the participants in the study and their specific health problem played a major factor in their choice of trusted source.
Dr Roma Harris – Communities of practice? A relational perspective on HIV/AIDS information exchange networks in rural Canada
This is a really interesting study which involved “interviews with more than 100 people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs), their friends and family members, and health care and social service providers, as well as a population survey of nearly 2,000 residents in three regions of Canada”. It deals with information seeking behaviour and:
- stigmatism which forces people not to openly discuss their illness within their rural communities plus travel miles for medical help as local doctors in addition to being part of their community are not specialists in this area
- information flow and learning in networks and communities of practice communities
Whilst communities of practice are usually thought of in relation to the workplace, the term “health working” was used by the presenter to describe their activity of seeking and sharing health information within their social networking. I think it is an appropriate term and use of Wenger’s community of practice described in the accompanying paper as:
groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis (Wenger, Mcdermott and Syneder, 2004, p.4).
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., and Synder, W.M. 2002. Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
and would apply to most health support groups where their is little or no information available and there is a stigma attached to the health problem.
My final posting about this conference will cover information literacy and schools plus a session on information literacy and the unemployed. In the meantime I need to turn my attention to other work that requires attention.