Helping People Find and Use Good Health Information
Librarians play an important role in their communities and are uniquely positioned to help the public find, understand, and use health information. Specifically, there are three important roles in helping people in their quest for reliable and trustworthy health information:
- Providing print and electronic resources on consumer health
- Offering free computer and Internet services, which allows easy access to vast amount of free health information online
- Supporting people through trained librarian reference services to help people focus and evaluate the information found, so that searching process is faster and more accurate
The following resources can help you locate quality health information and provide consumer health information services at your library, which can enable and empower people in your community to make informed health decisions and to better navigate the health care system.
Health Literacy from MedlinePlus
Provides an overview of Health Literacy.
Recommended starting place for searching for reliable and trustworthy health information. MedlinePlus covers over 1000 health conditions, drugs and supplements, medical tests, a medical encyclopedia and more. All of the information is free and the site is a service of the National Library of Medicine, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their mission is to present high-quality, relevant health and wellness information that is trusted, easy to understand, and free of advertising, in both English and Spanish.
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
Patient handouts from the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. These are also available on each Health Topic page.
NC Health Info
Use NC Health Info to find reliable and easy-to-use information. NC Health Info is a service of the Health Sciences Library and is maintained by volunteer librarians statewide.
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, this site offers health information in English and Spanish, on a wide variety of health topics, including the ability to get personalized recommendations for screenings and vaccines.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
This Center is one of the National Institutes of Health and conducts and supports research and provides information about complementary health products and practices. Sections include Health Topics A-Z, Herbs at a Glance, Know the Science, Be an Informed Consumer, Tips on Complementary Health, and more.
Testing.com (formerly Lab Tests Online)
Health information resource designed to help patients and caregivers understand the many lab tests that are part of medical care. Laboratory and medical professionals develop and review all content.
Drugs, Herbals and Supplements
MedlinePlus: Drug Information
Information on prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
National Library of Medicine’s Drug Information Portal
Gateway to selected drug information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and other key U.S. Government agencies.
Dietary Supplement Labels Database
The database is intended to capture all information from the labels of products sold as dietary supplements in the U.S.
This searchable database from the National Library of Medicine, provides labeling submitted to the Food and Drug Administration by companies. It contains labeling for prescription and non-prescriptions drugs for human and animal use, and for additional products such as medical gases, devices, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and medical foods.
The Drug Information Database on this site is powered by several independent medical information suppliers, including the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Cerner Multum and IBM Watson Micromedex. All content is peer-reviewed.
About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products
From the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, this site provides comprehensive and objective information, backed by scientific references, about herbs, botanicals, supplements, complementary therapies, and more.
Evidence-based information about complementary and integrative therapies.
Mental Health Resources and Online Support Communities
Mental Health (CDC)
This site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information, data and publications, tools and resources, and a link to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number and website.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance and improve the behavioral health of the nation and to improve the lives of people living with mental and substance abuse disorders, and their families.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
One of the National Institutes of Health, NIMH is the agency for research on mental disorders. Booklets, brochures, fact sheets, ebooks, and posters are available.
National Institute of Mental Health: Health Topics
This organization is the federal agency leading research on mental disorders and offers information on mental disorders and a range of related topics.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
This is a network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
American Psychiatric Association: Patients and Families
This site provides information on common mental disorders, including symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
Moderated communities of support groups on a wide variety of challenges.
Patients Like Me
Communities of people that can provide support through shared experience and outcomes.
NNLM Free Training
The Network of the National Library of Medicine provides free continuing education for librarians on a variety of topics including consumer health and health literacy.
Helping People Live Healthy Lives
Terri Ottosen from UNC Health Sciences Library presented at the NC Live Annual Conference in May 2022 about the role of librarians in Providing Good Health Information and Health Literacy Skills Development.
Download the PDF Handout: Handout Helping People Live Healthy Lives
Engaging for health: Providing Consumer Health Information at Your Library
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Health Sciences Library (HSL), part of the University Libraries, implemented a training program for library staff, students, and the public using and adapting the NNLM Engage for Health curriculum, and the Middle Atlantic Region of NNLM’s class, entitled, “Patient Empowerment: Using Health Information Resources to Improve Health Communication.”
ALA partners with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to share trusted vaccine information
This post from ALAnews shares information about the We Can Do This campaign about COVID-19 vaccines. The article includes links to resources librarians can share with their communities.
Mental Health Literacy (CDC)
This resource curated by the CDC provides links to trainings about Mental Health Literacy.