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Internet Access to the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology and Environmental Health Databases 4 Raising Awareness: Training and Outreach The TOXNET Web site offers information that is useful to a broad range of health professionals, researchers, community organizations, and other individuals and groups. Moving TOXNET from a fee-based, command-line system to free access and searching via the Internet greatly enhances accessibility of the information and offers the opportunity for expanding the audience. The committee hopes that NLM will take the opportunity presented by the new TOXNET Web site to raise awareness about this valuable information resource. The goals for training overlap with the goals of an extended outreach program—to spread awareness of the TOXNET Web site and increase use of the information. To effectively increase training and outreach efforts for TOXNET, additional staff are needed by the Specialized Information Services Division. TRAINING Although a goal of the TOXNET Web site should be to minimize the training required to search the databases, a certain amount of training will still be necessary, at least initially. Of particular importance are train-the-trainer sessions because participants can then expand the capability to train others. The Toxicology Information Outreach Project, NLM's Regional Medical Libraries and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and Partners in Information Access for Public Health Professionals can all be utilized to enhance training efforts. In addition, the committee recommends a Web-based tutorial be developed.
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Internet Access to the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology and Environmental Health Databases Toxicology Information Outreach Project The Division of Specialized Information Services began the Toxicology Information Outreach Project with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in 1991. This project initially provided hardware, software, training, and access to the TOXNET databases at nine HBCUs. Since then, the project has expanded its training focus and, in joint training sessions with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has provided training on toxicology and environmental health information resources for over 44 HBCUs. It is hoped that future plans for this outreach project will include sessions that inform instructors and students about the new TOXNET Web site and provide train-the-trainer sessions. Regional Medical Libraries and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine NLM works with and through an extensive regional and local medical library network. The eight Regional Medical Libraries (RMLs) and the over 4,500 medical libraries in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) provide an outstanding resource for outreach and training opportunities. Utilization of this network can be enhanced by training sessions for RML and NNLM librarians and by focused funding to RMLs that would provide resources for exhibiting the TOXNET Web site at regional and local environmental health meetings. Partners in Information Access for Public Health Professionals A cooperative project has been developed among NLM, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) (Partners in Information Access, 1998). The goal of this project, Partners in Information Access for Public Health Professionals, is to provide public health professionals with access to the information resources they need. Specific activities to date have included regional training programs on public health information resources, development of distance learning materials, and development of a Web site and links among the sponsoring organizations. This partnership offers the opportunity to reach a group of health professionals who
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Internet Access to the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology and Environmental Health Databases work directly on environmental health issues. The committee believes that training on TOXNET is a natural fit with the mission of this partnership and hopes a number of activities and links will be developed and implemented. Tutorials As mentioned in Chapter 3, it is important to have a ready-made tutorial, available via the Internet, that can be utilized by teachers, librarians, individuals making presentations to community groups, and others. This tutorial could offer several scenarios focused on real-world environmental health issues and could demonstrate the types of information available in the TOXNET databases. Such a tutorial would make it easy for community groups, health professionals, and others to put together a presentation and would be a valuable tool in outreach and training efforts. OUTREACH To maximize outreach efforts and raise awareness of the TOXNET Web site, it is important to take advantage of the many existing organizations, agencies, Web sites, and publications that reach the varied audiences for toxicology and environmental health information. Because environmental health concerns are frequently focused on local and regional issues, it is particularly important to reach regional, state, and local environmental health organizations. Outreach can take multiple forms including articles for newsletters, news columns, and journals (including Internet journals); hypertext links from the organization's Web site to TOXNET; brochures, news releases, and handouts; and presentations, seminars, and exhibits at conferences or meetings. Reaching the numerous individuals and groups involved in environmental health issues poses a challenge when resources are limited. However, the Internet can go a long way in serving as a cost-effective mechanism for marketing the TOXNET Web site. As mentioned in Chapter 3, key hypertext linkages within the overall NLM Web site are crucial, including links to TOXNET from the homepages of NLM, Internet Grateful Med, and PubMed. Additionally, it is important to have links from other environmental health Web sites to TOXNET. Although adding a link to TOXNET is done at the discretion of the host site, the minimal time and cost involved in adding a link makes it quite feasible. The challenge is to contact the relevant organizations and acquaint them with the wealth of information available on the TOXNET Web site. In addition to the following bulleted potential linkages, NLM should consider asking all Web sites that link to PubMed or Internet Grateful Med to add a link to the TOXNET Web site. The committee did not make an exhaustive list of all of the organizations that should be contacted for outreach efforts, but it did start a list that can be
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Internet Access to the National Library of Medicine's Toxicology and Environmental Health Databases expanded. Outreach efforts can be targeted to reach each group as most appropriate, either via the Internet, printed materials, presentations, or exhibits. Organizations to involve in outreach efforts for TOXNET include: academic and public libraries (NLM has recently announced a pilot project with 37 public libraries across the United States to increase awareness of Internet health resources [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/news/press_releases/access.html]); high schools and universities; federal agencies involved directly in environmental and occupational health issues and specific programs within those agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and EPA's Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Advisory Subcommittees; state and local environmental and public health agencies, the Environmental Council of States; nonprofit organizations and networks (e.g., Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, League of Women Voters, Nature Conservancy, Right-to-Know Network, Sierra Club); industry and related organizations (e.g., Chemical Manufacturers Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America); and professional associations (e.g., American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, American Association of Poison Control Centers, American Bar Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Medical Toxicology, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Industrial Hygiene Association, American Public Health Association, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, National Science Teachers Association, Society of Environmental Journalists). CONCLUSION The committee believes that the TOXNET databases offer a wealth of information to a broad range of individuals and organizations, and it applauds the Specialized Information Services Division and NLM for expanding access to TOXNET through the development of an Internet Web site. There are a number of short- and long-term changes to the TOXNET Web site that, if implemented, will increase the ease of searching the databases and will increase the searcher's efficiency in retrieving the information he or she requires.
Representative terms from entire chapter: