Libraries tackle health disparities by sharing medical information with the community through ‘All of Us’

Researchers at New York University School of Medicine who analyzed data from the City Health Dashboard have found that Chicago has the nation’s highest gap in life expectancy in its neighborhoods: the data show a 30-year life expectancy gap between the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods. Working as a team, librarians from the University of Chicago’s John Crerar Library and the Chicago Public Library (CPL) will provide training on and access to high-quality online health information for patrons, taking an important step to help address this health disparity.

The John Crerar Library has a history of community engagement, providing access to science collections since the Library first opened its doors in 1897. Today, we are bringing expertise and knowledge to the community through the All of Us Community Engagement Network Ambassador Program. Through this program, which has awarded the University of Chicago Library $100,000, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), aims to improve health literacy and access to high quality health information in communities throughout the United States through partnerships with public libraries.

Debra Werner talks to doctors and a medical student at the hospital
Photo by Joel Wintermantle
Debra Werner (center) is one of the Crerar librarians who will empower community members with high-quality health information.

Our goal is to improve Chicago residents’ access to quality health information from the NLM and increase health information knowledge, empowering people in our communities to make informed health decisions. The John Crerar librarians, including Deb Werner, Director of Library Research in Medical Education; Holiday Vega, Health and Social Services Librarian; and a new clinical library resident, as well as a health outreach coordinator, are providing training, including in-person workshops for CPL staff, on how to provide quality health information services and health programming within their community. Training began this summer and will continue throughout the year. The six participating CPL branch libraries include Coleman, Douglass, Humboldt Park, Portage-Cragin, Scottsdale, and West Chicago Avenue.

The John Crerar Library will provide programming to the community by partnering with University of Chicago Medicine programs with national expertise in precision medicine and community health, including the Institute for Population and Precision Health, the Center for Community Health and Vitality, and the Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities. Through a speaker series organized by Crerar and Chicago Public Library staff, leading experts from these institutes and centers will provide critical health information directly to patrons at the selected CPL branch libraries during the fall and spring. In addition, medical students at the UChicago Pritzker School of Medicine, which has a strong community health curriculum, will participate in the program, which may include providing health screenings at various public library branches and distributing information about health services that are provided at student-run medical clinics.

The “All of Us” award is sponsored by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.