An Evaluation of Our Community Health Specialist Training Program

West Philadelphia library staff graduates of the Community Health Specialist Training with Dr. Anna Morgan.

West Philadelphia library staff graduates of the Community Health Specialist Training with Dr. Anna Morgan.

We have had a busy year at the Healthy Library Initiative! We are excited to share two new journal articles from our team, both of which were published this spring. The first is an evaluation of our Community Health Specialist training program, which was released in the May issue of Health Promotion Practice. Being on the “front lines,” library staff are in many ways like health care providers or social workers. They routinely respond to questions and concerns about patrons health and social needs. Yet we have learned from our conversations with them that library staff often feel as though their formal professional training has inadequately prepared them for this central part of their jobs.

To address work-related stress among library staff and to provide better resources to library patrons, the HLI team designed, implemented, and evaluated a Community Health Specialist training program here in Philadelphia to help library staff better recognize, engage, and refer patrons to appropriate health and social services - tapping into a strong network of community-based organizations in Philadelphia. Our study in Health Promotion Practice documents the effectiveness of these trainings based on pre- and post-training participant evaluations and qualitative interviews. Library staff participants reported significantly improved comfort, confidence, and preparedness in addressing the social and health concerns of patrons experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, mental health concerns or substance use disorder, family trauma, or immigration challenges. The trainings in Philadelphia are ongoing and we have received numerous requests for training from library systems across the country, whose staff report similar challenges and a clear need for further professional training.

The trainings were conducted with support from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, the CEAR Core of the UPenn CTSA, the RWJF Clinical Scholars Program, and the Eisenberg Research Fund. You can read the article here and listen to a lecture on the evaluation by Dr. Anna Morgan here. Stay tuned next week for a post about our survey of Pennsylvania libraries in Preventing Chronic Disease.

Post by Eliza Whiteman