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The Information Behavior of Public Health Educators Working in Appalachia

Author: 
McClanahan, Karen J.
Committee Members: 
Dr. Carol Tenopir
Date: 
May 2011

Abstract: Public health educators serve as a vital interface between medical and public health authorities and community members for the dissemination of important information related to disease prevention and health promotion. Public health educators deliver packaged educational programs, develop their own original programs, field impromptu health questions, and conduct community health assessments. This dissertation research employed a survey in January 2011 to illuminate the information-related attitudes and activities of health educators working in public health departments in Appalachia. The research questions explored how these health educators find and use information, how they perceive their information needs and their abilities to find and evaluate information related to their work, their satisfaction with the information resources available to them, and the impact of the economic and health status of their county or region on their information behavior.

Key findings include that respondents are frequent information seekers with high-speed Internet access, but they need better access to information and data related to their work. Respondents use the web heavily but have concerns about evaluating online information. Information literacy training must accommodate their workflows and budgets. Library resource use is currently low but has the greatest potential for meeting their complex needs. Suggestions include multi-dimensional collaborations between health educators and information professionals and a new, more information-centric role for health educators.