Five questions with HSL’s new Community Engagement & Health Literacy Librarian, Terri Ottosen!
What made you decide to come to Chapel Hill?
I’ve known many of the amazing health sciences librarians at HSL from working with them or socializing through professional organizations and committees. I also served on a Health Sciences Library committee a few years ago when the library was re-thinking consumer health services. I know the library values community engagement and focuses on public service to the entire population of North Carolina. These are particular passions for me, so this position is my dream job.
What is your role here at HSL?
I am the Community Engagement and Health Literacy Librarian. I work to advance the library’s community engagement activities, including collaborating with health care professionals as well as community groups. I manage and develop consumer health and patient education resources and services, including health literacy training for health professionals and students in UNC Health Affairs schools, UNC Health Care, and community partners throughout the state. I will also manage the library’s outreach to the citizens of North Carolina through NC Health Info (the library’s online consumer health guide), and will direct work with public libraries and community agencies.
What challenges to you see ahead for the library?
Health literacy is a challenge for many patients. Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make informed healthcare decisions. Millions of people struggle with poor health literacy skills, which greatly affects their health care experience. The reason is that much of the patient education materials are often written by healthcare professionals, who use language that can be hard to understand by the average consumer. Poor health literacy has a profound impact on the health care system as a whole. This impact is only going to grow as more and more responsibility is put on the patients and their families to make decisions about self-care. People with limited health literacy skills are more likely to have chronic conditions and to skip preventive measures. They are also less likely to manage their conditions effectively, and tend to have increased hospital visits, admissions and readmissions. Adequate health literacy is necessary for prevention and health promotion, so it’s important that efforts are made to raise awareness on the topic. The library is in a uniquely qualified position to make this happen, and I am eager to apply my skills and expertise to promote this cause for the benefit of patients and health consumers in North Carolina and beyond.
What has impressed you most about HSL?
The commitment to consumer health and the emphasis on prioritizing service to the University and to the state as a whole.
What one thing would you want faculty, staff, and students know about you?
I am very excited for the opportunity to work with all of you in order to improve the health of all North Carolinians.