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An Important and Long-Awaited Opportunity

Posted By Sonja A. Rasmussen and Renee Bougard, Friday, February 26, 2016
Updated: Friday, February 26, 2016

“I was very excited to learn that public health departments around the country can now use Block Grant funding to support increased access to library services. The availability of journals, publications, and up-to-date science will be a huge boon to the public health workforce at the state and local levels.”

- Tim Jones, State Epidemiologist, Tennessee Department of Health

It was just this January that CDC and the National Library of Medicine announced that public health departments can now use funding from the CDC Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant to access journals, publications, the latest evidence, and additional resources through the Public Health Information Access Project (PHIAP) of the National Library of Medicine. The mechanism was developed through the Centers for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control working with partners inside CDC and outside the agency.

The goal of the project is to provide low-cost access to high-value, evidence-based resources to improve public health practice in state public health departments. Costs must be tied to state work plans.

In 2015, CSTE reported on its year-long assessment on the scientific writing needs and trends for applied epidemiologists. CSTE’s Applied Epidemiology Scientific Writing Trends, Needs, and Recommendations, 2014 noted that just over half the respondents reported access to peer-reviewed literature (55%), oftentimes through academic appointments. One of the recommendations from the report was to encourage scientific writing partnering with libraries or universities to ensure access to peer-reviewed literature.

Jones noted the same limitations for his colleagues in Tennessee. “Up until now, access at our health department has been limited to a handful of federal assignees or folks with faculty appointments somewhere, and there is widespread enthusiasm at all levels here about this new initiative to expand that access. I think it will enhance our ability to make more rapid, evidence-based decisions and policies, as well as encourage publication and wider dissemination of reports on the important work being done on the front lines of public health.”

Access to library services through PHIAP is already making a difference in state health departments around the country.

“Here in Connecticut, we modify our Youth Risk Behavior Survey and this year, staff at our State Department of Education wanted to capture information about students experiencing housing insecurity. We know there is health and academic risk in this vulnerable population. Having the resources available through the Public Health Information Access Project greatly helped us find relevant research on this topic to better inform our survey development workgroup.”

− Connecticut Department of Public Health

“Having resources to learn the microbiological and medical/epidemiological facets of what my customers are dealing with helps me ask better questions and collect better data, which drives better decisions (and ultimately, better health outcomes and longer lives – which is why health departments exist in the first place). Thanks again for doing what you are doing to make our jobs easier, and our people healthier.”

− Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Lab

“I just used this fabulous resource to help me find published information on metrics for evaluating patient navigation during diagnosis and treatment of breast and cervical cancer and the cost effectiveness of cancer patient navigation and….I hit the jackpot. No more ‘you must be subscribed to download the full text…’ It was well worth my 90 minutes of training.”

− Connecticut Department of Public Health

We’re very pleased this collaboration is making these services available to all who need them. If you’re interested in obtaining access to library resources for your state health department, talk with the people at the state that develop the block grant funds budget about possibly including this item in your state work plan.
Sonja A. Rasmussen, MD, MS, is director of the CDC Division of Public Health Information and Dissemination and editor-in-chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Renee Bougard, MLIS is outreach librarian at the NN/LM National Network Office of the NIH/National Library of Medicine. For information about PHIAP or how to access library services, please visit:

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