Article Overview: Information Needs of Public Health Practitioners: A Review of the Literature

Source

Ford J & Korjonen H (2012) “Information Needs of Public Health Practitioners: A Review of The Literature.” Health Information and Libraries Journal  DOI: 10.1111/hir.12001

This isn’t going to be an appraisal of the article more a summary/overview which may help people get an understanding of the topic. This article was produced by the National Heart Forum, who I had become aware of earlier in 2012, when they produced a piece of research on public health needs (though no public health staff I know were aware of it happening nor were any of my ‘public health information specialists’ peers. My reaction to the original research was not overly positive for various reasons. Anyway… Public Health information is a keen interest of mine, as is the information needs of public health practitioners. So I felt this article had potential.

Overview

This article had 3 main objectives: build picture of information needs; identify & present literature; identify and present solutions. Personally I found it to highlight many issues that I was already aware of/long suspected such as: no hard public health staff definition (new public health is a broad, broad church – I may blog on this in the future); the lack of standardised terminology (try searching for “wellbeing” on any healthcare database. Or “commissioning”- seriously it’s a pain searching for public health evidence, clinical librarians have it easy J); the lack of research! It is a standard literature review, obviously limited by the amount of articles available on the topic. Many of the conclusions and messages resonate with health librarians and the role they already play (removing barriers, assessing information needs, information skills provision etc.) which would be useful if all public health teams had an imbedded information service! The lack of actual literature to review is a major issue with the article, unfortunately. Hopefully it is an area that research will grow, so the next time such a review is undertaken – there is more to form valid conclusions from.

Practical Applications for Health Library Folk

I feel this article offers a good example of the challenges working within the public health, as it very much sits in the shadow of clinical aspects of healthcare. It highlights potential areas of development within the conclusions that a service could expand into (though as professional, I would recommend some research within the target teams – information needs analysis etc. as local need can differ). Although it is limited (as it states within the article) it is worth a read.

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