This is the first in a series of three Hitchhiker Reference articles about information resources related to health and health care. This time we look at general information and data. Subsequent articles will focus on Native American health information, and on the Affordable Care Act.
Please remember that if you are answering any health or medicine related question and you aren’t a doctor or medical professional, you should include a disclaimer. Here’s an example:
We are not able to answer specific medical questions because we are not doctors or medical professionals. As librarians, we cannot give health care advice or interpret medical materials. We can make suggestions about resources or research tools you can use to find the information you need.
If you aren’t familiar with the special issues related to health and medical reference questions, it would be good to visit the ALA Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Guidelines for Medical, Legal, and Business Responses.
General Health Information:
The New Mexico Department of Health is a logical starting point for state information. For easiest navigation, use the options that run down the right side of the screen; that way you can see everything on offer without multiple click-throughs. There’s a lot here, so take a good look. Key resources include health information in Spanish, information about state health programs, and state health data. This is also where you go to find licensing information, both how to get licensed and who is licensed.
Let’s move on to the Federal sites.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers a huge number of fact sheets on health topics. Look at the center of your screen to select a topic or to choose resources for a particular group of people. This is definitely a go-to site for health information of all types: diseases, conditions, travel safety, emergency preparedness, wellness, environmental health factors, workplace safety, and a lot more.
The National Institutes of Health have good information for the public as well as for researchers. There are also some fun health pages for kids and educators (click on Science Education).
The National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine offers PMC, “a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature,” which is a treasure for those of us who can’t afford a subscription to a full medical database such as PubMed. If you have people looking for peer-reviewed health-related journal articles, and if you don’t have a pricey subscription database, start here.
Of the non-government sites with health and wellness information, my favorite is the Mayo Clinic. Their information seems authoritative (but remember – I’m a librarian, not a doctor!), and it is certainly clear, well-organized, and easy to navigate.
And don’t forget that El Portal has health information available. In addition to general magazine articles on health, wellness, and nutrition, El Portal includes several health-related databases such as Health Reference Center Academic, Nursing and Allied Health Collection, and Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Collection.
Sources for Health Data:
The New Mexico Department of Health has its own page of state health data. The reports listed have good data, but I find it’s hit-or-miss whether what I need is reported here. It’s a good first stop, and you may hit gold.
America’s Health Rankings, produced by the United Health Foundation, produces valuable reports showing how the states stack up in terms of health care. These reports may be useful if you are applying for grants related to health care – for example, grants to fund library programs to present health care information to seniors, or to teach kids about nutrition. The website is clean, clear, and easy to navigate: