Sunday, February 1, 2015

Health Outreach Study from Preston Medical Library

The information and statistics that the US Census data present is a great way to view the population of the United States on its own. However, combined with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the data can be interpreted, analyzed, and presented in a much more interesting, as well as thought provoking way. TIGER files have been used in libraries starting in 1990 and have been incorporating US Census data with GIS since then. In Knoxville, TN, a library called the Preston Medical Library conducted research to analyze socioeconomic and demographic patterns and attempt to improve health literacy information outreach through their free telephone-based Consumer and Patient Health Information Service (CAPHIS). To perform this study, the Preston Medical Library used GIS and US Census data. The library has staff that send out health information packets to the callers of CAPHIS, and they do this according to the literacy level of each caller. The library used CAPHIS data and ArcMap to analyze the zip codes and health topics that were requested by users of CAPHIS in each zip code area.

The library utilized these maps that they created to identify counties that had high opportunities for outreach. The overall goal of the research was to determine if socioeconomic factors such as age, poverty, and disability could be associated to the rate of calls to CAPHIS to determine health information disparities in specific areas geographically. The library created the map with Esri ArcGIS and geocoded addresses onto a county shapefile map of Tennessee. The results of the study were as follows: some zip codes in Knox County, as well as neighboring counties, had a high prevalence of people aged sixty or older, who were poor, or who had ambulatory disability who were not using Preston Medical Library's CAPHIS.

Socha, Y. M., Oelschlegel, S., Vaughn, C. J., & Earl, M. (2012). Improving an outreach service by analyzing the relationship of health information disparities to socioeconomic indicators using geographic information systems. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 100(3), 222.


  1. What was Preston Medical Library able to do with the information they gathered? They should share the information with health and human services in TN.

  2. I thought this was a very interesting article. However, I think the research’s response bias that sways the analysis and relevancy of the information. While it’s interesting to see the requested information based on caller location, I think it may prove more useful to track and analyze based off of released medical incidents in the area as well. The levels of education, socioeconomic background, and occupation information would be an interesting addition to this research.