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(Bethesda, MD, Thursday, October 22, 1998)-Pointing out that "carefully used, the Internet offers the public a wonderful opportunity for accessing timely and critical health information," Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine-the world's largest medical library-announced that 39 public library organizations with more than 200 locations in nine states (Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) and the District of Columbia would take part in a pilot project designed to increase public awareness of and access to health information via the Internet.
The project, Medical Questions? MEDLINE Has Answers, will evaluate the degree to which public libraries and the Internet can help meet the health informational needs of the public. Dr. Lindberg said, "This project will help us to determine the feasibility of mounting these programs in public libraries nationwide."
NLM's partners in the Medical Questions campaign are the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, the Kellogg Foundation, the Medical Library Association, the Public Library Association (a part of the American Library Association), and the Friends of the National Library of Medicine.
"This pilot project was prompted, in part, by growing public enthusiasm and thirst for medical information," noted Dr. Lindberg. "For more than 25 years MEDLINE has been one way in which health professionals have kept up with what's new in their field. Last year, Vice President Al Gore extended this same ability to all when he conducted the first free MEDLINE search on the Internet. Since then, public interest in MEDLINE has skyrocketed. The number of MEDLINE searches has increased amazingly, from 7 million a year to 120 million. And, about one-third of them are being done by consumers-indicative of the increasing public appetite for health information."
Public Access to MEDLINE Praised by Medical Pioneer Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.
Internationally renowned heart surgeon, Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., praised the initiative, saying "Good information is the best medicine. Immediate access to current medical research information is as critical as the biopsy and the x-ray have been in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Not only health professionals, but also consumers, should have the most recent medical information at their fingertips."
Lindberg agreed: "Recognizing that informed consumers are better patients but have varied health information needs, NLM has developed MEDLINEplus, an easy-to-understand resource for the public which includes MEDLINE-the world's largest database of peer-reviewed information-as well as links to self-help groups, access to the NIH consumer health information, clearinghouses, health-related organizations, and clinical trials."
In addition to general health topics, MEDLINEplus provides access to extensive information about 20 specific diseases and conditions ("Health Topics"). The site will be continuously expanded and it is expected to include comprehensive and cutting-edge information on hundreds of diseases and conditions in coming months.
MEDLINEplus is available from the NLM's homepage at http://www.nlm.nih.gov.
Television editor's note: A 28-second video public service announcement on the "Medical Questions: MEDLINE Has Answers" campaign featuring Michael E. DeBakey is available upon request.