Potential of Technology to Improve the Availability and Use of Health Information on Cancer Subjects for Clergy from Rural Communities

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Background: Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world and often is a chronic long term disease. This calls for an expanded workforce to include non-traditional health care providers.

Objective: To determine effectiveness of a cancer information training project with clergy from selected rural Appalachian areas to improve comfort and willingness to work as part of the cancer health care team.

Methods: Clergy were trained in the consumer health database of the National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus.gov. Exercises were required that were done using an iPad tablet with an online curriculum. They were also taught how to do a population health assessment of their particular area and develop a health ministry for their church.

Results: Three key elements were confirmed that would enable replication of the pilot: access to medlineplus, programmed learning modules using mobile technology such as iPads, and staff support including librarians and medical staff. With these key elements, the cancer project is potentially replicable with other groups beyond clergy.

Conclusion: about population health, built on new awareness and topical health knowledge, and using new skills to identify relevant information and library resources, could open minds and enhance community support for preventive and medical interventions.