University News

Libraries, IIRA Spearhead Community Health Information Initiative for Region

January 7, 2010

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MACOMB, IL -- In an information-loaded age, sorting out fact versus fiction is never an easy process, particularly when it comes to health-related information. To help consumers get authoritative information, the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have created the free, health-information website Medline Plus. Western Illinois University Libraries, the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, as well as healthcare institutions, public libraries and community colleges in the region, are working together to promote an effort to help the citizens of western Illinois learn about and utilize this resource.

According to Phyllis Self, dean of University Libraries, WIU Libraries and its partners were recently awarded a consumer health subcontract worth almost $39,000 from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region. Self noted the initiative, "Building the Future with Community Health Information," began late last year and will run through April 30, 2011.

"The subcontract funding will enable us to provide information and instruction about the Medline Plus database to health providers, consumers in the general public and to librarians in the area," Self explained. "In order to reach a wider audience, we are also partnering with the Alliance Library System, which has a service area of 16 counties in our region," she said.

Self added the initiative will provide information and training at various community-oriented venues, at meetings and events such as the annual meeting of the McDonough Power Cooperative; the annual meeting of the Cattleman's Association, which is attended by approximately 400-500 individuals from Warren, Henderson, Hancock and McDonough counties; exhibit booths at the Home Show held on Western Illinois University's campus every spring and the WIU Ag Mech Club's annual Farm Expo held every winter, both of which bring in thousands of people from the region; as well as other meetings, such as those held by the Rotary Club, and events occurring in west central Illinois during the subcontract period.

Mary Jane Clark, health resource specialist at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, noted that providing the instructional materials and programs throughout the region will help increase the efficacy of the Building the Future with Community Health Information initiative and help spread the overall message about the importance of health among the residents in the mostly rural region.

"Effective health communications are essential for informing residents of rural Illinois about the availability of health services and health programs in the area, as well the benefits of healthy behaviors and choices," Clark said. "Increasing the effectiveness of health messages is important for rural residents because access to service remains an issue."

Self noted that the goal of the initiative is to reach a minimum of five to 10 percent of the population in western Illinois.

"Working through WIU's Macomb and Quad Cities campuses, the participating public libraries and the Alliance Library System, as well as through health institutions in the region, including Western's Beu Health Center, we feel we will be able to meet that goal through our library and instructional programs."

To access the Medline Plus database online, visit

For more information about Building the Future with Community Health Information initiative, contact Self at (309) 298-2762 or or Clark at (309) 298-2253 or

This project has been funded by the National Library of Medicine under Contract No. NO1-LM-6-3503 with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Library of the Health Sciences.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations