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J Med Libr Assoc. 2003 Jul;91(3):322-36.

Benchmarking information needs and use in the Tennessee public health community.

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  • 1The Annette and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nashville, Tennessee, USA.



The objective is to provide insight to understanding public health officials' needs and promote access to data repositories and communication tools.


Survey questions were identified by a focus group with members drawn from the fields of librarianship, public health, and informatics. The resulting comprehensive information needs survey, organized in five distinct broad categories, was distributed to 775 Tennessee public health workers from ninety-five counties in 1999 as part of the National Library of Medicine-funded Partners in Information Access contract.


The assessment pooled responses from 571 public health workers (73% return rate) representing seventy-two of ninety-five counties (53.4% urban and 46.6% rural) about their information-seeking behaviors, frequency of resources used, computer skills, and level of Internet access. Sixty-four percent of urban and 43% of rural respondents had email access at work and more than 50% of both urban and rural respondents had email at home (N = 289). Approximately 70% of urban and 78% of rural public health officials never or seldom used or needed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Website. Frequency data pooled from eleven job categories representing a subgroup of 232 health care professionals showed 72% never or seldom used or needed MEDLINE. Electronic resources used daily or weekly were email, Internet search engines, internal databases and mailing lists, and the Tennessee Department of Health Website.


While, due to the small sample size, data cannot be generalized to the larger population, a clear trend of significant barriers to computer and Internet access can be identified across the public health community. This contributes to an overall limited use of existing electronic resources that inhibits evidence-based practice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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