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April 16, 1998

LIS dept. to develop minority health care info system

The Department of Library and Information Science (DLIS) in the School of Information Sciences has received a grant from the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield health care system to create a "minority health link," a comprehensive information system geared toward minority health care consumers.

The three-year grant provides $170,000 for the next two years, at the end of which an evaluation will determine the funding level for the third year.

The project's twin objectives are the creation of an accessible health information website for minorities and the education and training of a generation of health information specialists. This effort will produce a system that ensures targeted minority communities have access to, and training in the use of, the website. SIS graduate students, working with the Highmark team, will create an information tool that links area minority health care consumers with the resources best able to meet their needs, including directories of minority health care providers. Students training to become health information specialists may earn a master's degree as part of the project, while specializing in the identification, organization and dissemination of relevant health care information.

Ellen Detlefsen, associate professor in DLIS and project director, and Nancy Washington, assistant to the chancellor for minority affairs, will work with an advisory committee of area professionals and the community relations office at Highmark to establish the link.

"There is plenty of health related information available on the Internet," said Detlefsen. "However, most of it is not geared towards the African American community. With the Highmark minority health care information initiative we want to deal in an informational way with both the health problems specific to minorities, such as sickle cell anemia, but also with the more common illnesses from an African American or minority perspective."

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