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VCU Libraries, AHECs provide vital health care information

August 4, 2013

Health care practitioners in many areas of Virginia have little or no access to the caliber of medical information they need to best treat their patients. Health care providers associated with universities have vast online repositories of the most up-to-date information at their fingertips. Other providers do not.

new website, A Common Wealth of Public Health and Primary Care Information, helps address this disparity.  

Designed to serve public health care and community health center physicians, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, nutritionists, health educators, health administrators, epidemiologists and others, the site is a partnership between Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University and two of Virginia's eight Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Programs, the Capital and the Rappahannock AHEC programs. The National AHEC Organization (NAO) works to assist health practitioners in medically underserved areas. They are nonprofit organizations strategically located where health care and health care education needs are not adequately met.

AHEC programs work "to bridge the gap between academic health centers and the community. VCU Libraries' technical expertise in collaboration with AHEC has created a project that can benefit communities in the Commonwealth," said Jane Wills, RAHEC executive director.

The project partners developed the new website with insight provided by an advisory committee consisting of public health and primary care professionals, and VCU public health faculty members.

VCU librarians organized the materials for public health and primary care professionals.  The partners are now working to promote the website so Virginia public health, rural health, and primary health care organizations, associations and providers can use the resource to better care for their patients.

VCU librarians: 

  • Identified relevant public health and primary care subject areas and develop research guides highlighting these resources on topics including chronic diseases, maternal and child health and evidence-based health care practice.
  • Searched free websites to find databases, journals, books and other information which may be relevant to Virginia public health and community health center workers such as PubMed®, TOXNET, AGRICOLA, and MedlinePlus®.

"This project provides much needed access to free evidence-based information not only in our region but throughout the state," said Tracy Causey, CAHEC board chair and president of the Virginia Community Care Association. 

"Now, a health care provider in downtown Petersburg or rural Pulaski or on the water in Reedville on the Northern Neck, have equal and easy access to important medical information. It's all free and reliable," said Barbara Wright, Research & Education Librarian and project manager.

The project was funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHS-N-276-2011-00004-C with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. 

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