Our Libraries: Keeping Hope Alive for Heart Health

library shelves leading towards bright light of hope

Right now, I am reading The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. This wonderful historical fiction novel is about the American Library in Paris, France, during the occupation of Paris during World War II. There are many wonderful quotes in this book about libraries and those who serve the public through libraries, and so many were inspirational to me as the Director of the National Library of Medicine.

One quote that struck me the most is, “Libraries are lungs. Books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.

I like this idea of libraries as lungs. Although the American Library in Paris was a general library and not a medical library, the image of libraries serving as conduits for books that serve elements like fresh air, which is essential to life, really appeals to me. If you recall my earlier posts about imagination, you’ll recognize that the idea of books serving to “keep the brain imagining” resonates with how I believe libraries provide not only access to known knowledge, but stimulation to generate new knowledge. But it was that last part of the phrase, to “keep hope alive,” that really got me thinking about how the National Library of Medicine keeps hope alive.

One way we keep hope alive is by supporting NIH-led national initiatives such as the work that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) does related to Obesity, Nutrition and Physical Activity. NHLBI recognizes that…

A healthy body weight, good nutrition, and physical activity can help prevent or manage serious and chronic cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. A healthy weight can also help reduce the risk of certain lung and sleep conditions, such as asthma and sleep apnea. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) collaborates with other NIH institutes and partners to advance research related to obesity, nutrition, and physical activity.”

Certainly, supporting NHLBI initiatives that address obesity, nutrition, and physical activity represents a tangible effort by NLM to keep hope alive. We provide information and data resources to scientists, policy makers, clinicians, librarians, and the general public to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart diseases. Our molecular databanks like GenBank and the Sequence Read Archive (SRA) provide reference genomic sequences that help researchers understand the genetic components of heart diseases that can lead to the development of precision treatments. Our PubMed biomedical citation database and PubMed Central full-text literature repository contain millions of citations and articles detailing important insights to better understand conditions of the heart. Our ClinicalTrials.gov resource provides clinicians and their patients with access to information about clinical research studies that are recruiting new participants as well as the summary results after study completion.

Supporting NHLBI’s obesity, nutrition, and physical activity initiatives also requires that we address related features: removing health disparities, engaging people in their own health, and delivering optimal care. Now I will turn my attention to showcase how NLM addresses these three features and gives hope to the public.

PubMed includes almost 100,000 archival citations that address health disparities, including nearly 6,000 that address health disparities and heart disease. There are almost 6,000 papers in PubMed reporting on strategies to increase physical activity among patients. To help engage people with their own health, we provide electronic resources. NLM’s MedlinePlus website is specifically designed to meet consumers’ health information needs. MedlinePlus provides curated consumer health information in English and Spanish, with select content in additional languages. There are more than 6,500 entries related to heart disease, from genetics to explanations of medical tests to information about drugs and supplements. To assist people in accessing and making use of these NLM resources, our Network of the National Library of Medicine provides more than 8,000 points of presence to reach people in communities across the country.

NLM is pleased and proud to “keep hope alive” by supporting initiatives like NHLBI’s initiative on obesity, nutrition, and physical activity. We invite you to join with us to support this audacious vision of eliminating heart disease.

Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD

Director, National Library of Medicine

Dr. Brennan is the Director of the NIH National Library of Medicine, a leader in biomedical informatics and computational health data science research and the world’s largest biomedical library. Under her leadership, NLM has grown its intramural and extramural research enterprise, extended stakeholders’ access to credible and reliable health information, and acquired and preserved biomedical literature using cutting-edge digital research and outreach. Read more about Dr. Brennan.

3 thoughts on “Our Libraries: Keeping Hope Alive for Heart Health

  1. I love this post it is very informative! I am also an RN who works for an insurance company. I am working to ensure equitable health outcomes for our members. One of the ways I intend to do that is by partnering with the states libraries to initiate a Health Literacy/Digital Health Literacy program along with the local hospital system. We are in talks to pilot this locally with stakeholders on board. It looks to be a program that will prove impactful for our members. I am sure to visit back for more helpful resources as we rollout and expand the program. Thank you for all you do!

    Crystal L. Bauer, RN

    1. Crystal—thank you for your service and for your efforts to provide equitable health care for your community. We appreciate your support and are glad you are following our blog!

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