Diagnosed with an Illness? Your Library Can Help!
So you’ve just left your doctor’s appointment with a diagnosis of an illness. Perhaps, you were given a prescription for medication to manage your symptoms. Maybe your doctor even provided some recommendations for living with your condition, such as modifying your diet or exercise. Following your physician’s orders can be as simple as popping a daily pill or adding more greens to your diet. But often, there is more to illness than meets the eye, and many questions may arise over the next few days or weeks after your diagnosis.
It’s easy to get lost in Google searches for answers, leading to more confusion than clarification. Where can you turn when you have been diagnosed with an illness? Your local library, of course! While your public librarians are not medical doctors or social workers (although some may be!), they are trained to connect you with high-quality information and support.
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Why Go to the Library for Health Issues?
Many people don’t think to tap into the resources at their local library when it comes to their health. The truth is that the library is about so much more than books. Don’t get me wrong; public libraries are amazing at acquiring the latest and greatest books in publication, including those on the most relevant health topics affecting people today.
But libraries also focus on cultivating a community hub where people can relax, learn, gather, and feel safe. In fact, many people are much more likely to go to their neighborhood library than to their family doctor. Libraries are one of the few places that are accessible to everyone. They are often centrally located and offer evening and weekend hours, making them convenient for nearly anyone to visit.
So what better place to reach people who need support for their health? Studies have found that public libraries make ideal partners for public health. To make the most of this advantage, libraries are finding new and exciting ways to offer health programming to their communities.
Access Library Databases to Research Your Condition
Dr. Google can provide a wealth of information about your illness, but how much do you have to sift through to find quality, trustworthy, up-to-date information? With your library card, you can access databases with vetted, reliable information on medical conditions. No pop-ups, no advertisements, and no misinformation! Are you new to using databases? Your public librarian will gladly give you a demonstration. Many libraries also provide online tutorials to show you how to access their databases at your leisure.
Attend a Health Presentation
Libraries are teaming up with local healthcare providers to offer presentations and Q&A sessions to their patrons on different pressing health matters. You can learn more about your condition from these experts, including medical doctors, dietitians, chiropractors, social workers, and holistic practitioners.
The Sacramento Public Library offers a variety of health literacy programs, including in-person and virtual presentations. Topics covered range from living with arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease to what health screenings to get and how to find reliable health information online.
Participate in a Health Screening
If medical offices make you feel a little anxious, visiting your library for a health screening may be more comfortable for you. Libraries partner with hospitals and health centers to organize health screenings for conditions ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to anxiety and depression.
Over in Arizona, the Pima County Public Library has partnered with their county health department to arrange for a team of public health nurses to visit the library regularly and offer services such as health screenings, referrals, and case management. The library even has its own full-time public health nurse to support patrons as needed.
Ask Your Librarian About Social Services
Public librarians are trained to connect patrons with services to support their health and well-being, such as aging, substance abuse, and mental health. There is a wide variety of services provided through the government and other organizations to assist people struggling with different medical conditions. These programs are created in response to economic disparities that become a barrier to getting proper medical attention. Your librarian can help you find free resources in your area, so your health doesn’t have to take a back seat to your budget.
The Queens Public Library system in New York provides on-site case management services at several of their libraries to assist patrons with accessing the healthcare and benefits to which they are entitled. Whether you are diagnosed with a medical condition or mental health disorder, these services can help connect you with affordable care.
Join a Support Group at Your Library
One of the best ways to find support for your medical condition is by connecting with others who share your diagnosis. Libraries are designed as gathering spaces, making them ideal settings for support groups. Most public libraries have meeting rooms that can be reserved for your group free of charge. The Old Bridge Public Library in New Jersey offers a monthly support group for women with diabetes.
Even if you cannot make it to the library due to physical or other limitations, libraries can accommodate your needs. The Bethel Public Library in Connecticut holds a quarterly virtual support group for people with Fibromyalgia/ME/CFS via Zoom.
Talk with Your Library’s Healthcare Worker
More libraries are showing strong support for public health by hiring staff with backgrounds in health, medicine, and social work. Many public library systems are also partnering with local health organizations to meet the growing needs of their patrons.
The Suffolk Cooperative Library System in New York has partnered with Stony Brook University to provide one-on-one appointments for assistance with medical issues and social services. As part of the Stony Brook Medicine Healthy Libraries Program (SBMHeLP program), patrons can meet virtually and receive guidance from students training in public health, nursing, and social work.
Public Libraries: Connecting You with the Resources You Need When Diagnosed with Illness
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a new medical diagnosis, reach out to your neighborhood library. Whether you want more information about managing your condition, require assistance obtaining affordable care for your illness, or simply need the support of caring individuals, your local librarians are here for you. And if you’d like to see some of the above health resources offered at your library, just ask!