When it comes to finding quality health care information in Kansas City, many minority communities are underserved. It’s a problem that needs more than a figurative band-aid.
“There is undeniable evidence that the African-American community suffers from higher rates of many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and sickle cell disease,” says Jeannine Glore Midgett, Director of Community Outreach for Truman Medical Centers .
She says that the lack of access to quality healthcare resources, including educational information, only makes the problem worse.
The Internet is crawling with health information, but can you trust the top few results of a Google search? And if you do manage to find actual medical information, how do you make sure you’re interpreting it correctly? Your health, after all, is on the line.
It’s no wonder that people have increasingly been turning to public libraries for health information. As a result, more and more libraries are creating specialized services to help people manage their health.
This Saturday morning, November 13, at 10 a.m., the ribbon will be cut  on the Health and Wellness Center  at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch , a community-focused health information gateway that is the result of a partnership between the Kansas City Public Library, Truman Medical Centers and the Health Science Institute  of Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley. The project is partially funded by a $111,000 grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City .
The concept isn’t new. Other public libraries have created health centers. But Bluford’s will raise the bar by offering innovative features that allow the Library and its partners to take an active role in improving the community’s health.
For one, the Health and Wellness Center’s collection will be geared toward the African-American community, addressing prevalent problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and HIV/AIDS. It will also emphasize teen health, from fitness and nutrition to teen pregnancy and sexual health.
The Bluford Center will provide programs, events, and workshops. As part of the “Doctor Is In” series, a physician and a dentist will consult patrons in person. Customers will have quality health information at their fingertips through a specially designed online portal at kchealthwellness.org .
In the spirit of providing more than information, on November 19, Bluford Assistant Branch Manager and Children’s Librarian Mary Thompson is hosting a lock-in focusing on teen sexuality. Called "You and Your Boo ," the program aims to encourage conversation.
“We want them to ask the questions they don’t have answers to rather than getting the answers from their peers, which might be wrong” Thompson says.
It’s all about identifying the community’s needs.
The Library's Deputy Director, Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, compares the Bluford Health & Wellness Center with the development of the H&R Block Business & Career Center . Health care and jobs, after all, are two of the most pressing issues in America today.
“The important thing to do as a Library is to package services to our community’s needs,” Kositany-Buckner says.
And if it’s a success at Bluford, Kositany-Buckner says, the Wellness Center may be replicated at other branches.
The whole community is invited to the Bluford Health & Wellness Center’s Grand Opening  Saturday, November 13, at 10 a.m. Following the ribbon cutting, there will be a health fair featuring community partners and local businesses. At 12 p.m., KCUR 89.3 FM’s community-focused news program, KC Currents , will conduct a live taping of a panel discussion on the state of health care in Kansas City.
This event and all services provided by the Health & Wellness Center are free of charge to all customers.
-- Jason Harper