toxicology information. Thus, health professionals need ready access to toxicology and environmental health information resources to assist them with patient care. Policymakers, health advisors, researchers, health educators, and other involved communities (e.g., the general public) also need access to this information as they pursue their own inquiries.

Established in 1956 (Public Law 84-941), the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is charged with improving the nation's health by collecting and providing access to the world's biomedical literature. In 1967, NLM established a specialized information program in toxicology and environmental health known today as the Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (TEHIP).2 Its mission is to provide selected core information resources and services, facilitate access to national and international information resources, and strengthen the information infrastructure of toxicology and environmental health (NLM, 1995). Currently, the TEHIP program encompasses 16 online databases that contain bibliographic and factual information on hazardous substances, including chemical properties, carcinogenicity, exposure levels, adverse health effects, emergency treatment protocols, and federal regulations. Additionally, the TEHIP program is responsible for training and outreach efforts to health professionals.

In 1995, at the request of NLM, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) formed the Committee on Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Resources for Health Professionals. The committee was charged with producing a consensus report examining the utility and accessibility 3 of NLM's TEHIP program for the work of health professionals and providing NLM with recommendations and strategies to improve use of the TEHIP databases. Additionally, the committee was asked to consider the current toxicology and environmental health information needs of health professionals and how those needs are currently being met. To fulfill this charge, the IOM selected for membership on its committee, individuals with expertise in a variety of disciplines, including medical and clinical toxicology, occupational and environmental health, primary care, library science and medical informatics, environmental science, health education, and emergency medicine.

The committee met three times during the course of the study and received extensive input from health professionals representing a range of disciplines and expertise. Input was received through several mechanisms. In conjunction with several health professional organizations, the committee developed and distributed a questionnaire that focused on the current use of computers and of online information resources in toxicology and environmental health (see Appendix B).

2  

The program was originally called the Toxicology Information Program (TIP) and was manded to create automated toxicology data banks and provide toxicology information and data services.

3  

Factors examined in assessing the utility (usefulness) and accessibility (ease to use) of the databases include the subject content, search interface, and available access points.



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