New approaches to addressing information needs in local public health agencies.
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For local Public Health agencies to be fully responsive to community needs, staff must have ready access to up-to-date and accurate information. During the last several years, the Hamilton-Wentworth Department of Public Health Services (DPHS), a Teaching Health Unit affiliated with McMaster University, has been developing new information services including establishment of a specialized library on site; education sessions on the use of information stored in this library and in the Hamilton-Wentworth Health Library Network; innovative approaches to tailoring information services to staff needs including on-site access to on-line literature databases; and establishment of a group to retrieve and report community health data. In the initial three years of operation, surveys of Hamilton-Wentworth staff and a comparison health unit (Niagara) revealed that staff most frequently sought information from managers and support staff, as well as from personal books, articles and journals. Over half (57%) of the Hamilton-Wentworth staff reported use of the DPHS library, whereas 28% of Niagara Regional Health Unit staff reported use of their library. Other information services, for example, bibliographic indexes on population health, were less frequently used. Plans to increase their use are discussed.
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