UNT Health Science Center leads health literacy outreach in seven states

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The Gibson D. Lewis Health Sciences Library works to improve access to authoritative health information for communities in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

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Credit: HSC

Federal funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will allow The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) to serve as a leader in health literacy outreach.

Gibson D. Lewis Health Sciences Library is one of seven Regional Medical Libraries (RML) in the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM). RMLs carry out regional and national programs that provide U.S. researchers, health professionals, public health workforce, educators, and the public with equal access to biomedical and health information resources and data.

A recently awarded $6.4 million grant allows the Lewis Library to increase its reach helping communities through health-centered education, information, outreach and grant-funding to external organizations.

The grant is an award from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), one of 27 centers and institutes at the NIH.

The Lewis Library will lead the NNLM’s newly reconfigured Region 3, which was formerly called the South Central Region. Region 3 is made up of seven states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

“The competition for the award this time was fierce and we were extremely happy to be re-awarded,” said Daniel Burgard, University Librarian and Vice Provost for Scholarly Information Management and Principal Investigator for Region 3.

“We look forward to continuing to serve the health information needs of our region, including the new states of Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska,”

The new grant renews this mission for five years starting on May 1 (from 2021 through 2026).

Last June, the Lewis Library team applied for the competitive funding after the NLM published a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the 2021-2026 RMLs. Health sciences libraries submitted proposal applications in September.

This funding allowed Lewis Library to award grants and help fund projects that promote the health and health literacy of diverse communities – from rural residents connecting to telemedicine in Pottsboro, TX to families that resettled in Arkansas after leaving the Marshall Islands.

“The grants we are able to distribute into the field go a long way in reaching communities and having an impact on populations that suffer from severe health disparities or experience higher rates of low health literacy,” said Brian D. Leaf, Executive Director of NNLM Region 3.

The Lewis Library began this service in 2016 when it received a five-year $6.2 million grant from the National Library of Medicine.

During the last five years, Lewis Library distributed about 160 awards totaling about $1.3 million dollars in five states, Leaf said. Awards varied in size from $2,000 to $40,000.

Leaf said the library also awarded several grants focused on COVID-19 information outreach when the pandemic started.

“Health touches every part of life,” Leaf said. “We want to get people thinking a little bit more about how they consume and navigate health information.”

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Alex Branch
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