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Innovation in Patient Education

After more than a year of planning, grant writing and development, two patient education stations are now in operation on the second and third floor clinic waiting areas. Funded by a grant from the National Library of Medicine, the project is the result of initiative taken by librarian Julie Schiavo.

She observed that last year more than 7,700 patients, including 1,271 low-income patients, were treated at the clinics in New Orleans. Often the patients brought family, friends, and even their children with them. That meant a lot of people were waiting. Ms. Schiavo saw this time as an opportunity to help the patients.

"I believe it's important to educate our patients so they become an active part of the health care process," she said. There is much work to be done because of significant public health issues with major implication for dental health. For example, 21.8 percent of the population of New Orleans lives below the poverty level. Statewide, 80 percent of children have cavities, the most common chronic disease of childhood in America. About one-fourth of Louisiana adults age 65 and older have lost all of their teeth. With ten percent of the state population affected by diabetes, Louisiana has the sixth highest rate among states. On a global basis, more and more research has proven that control of oral disease is essential to the prevention and management of systemic conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Julie Schiavo, Reference Librarian

The centerpiece of the learning stations are dedicated computers that are easy to use and limited to websites with high-quality patient material. The websites include MEDLINE, ClinicalTrials.gov, KidsHealth.org, NIH SeniorHealth, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Hygienist's Association, the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain. " All the information is trustworthy," Ms. Schiavo said. Printed brochures will be available soon. Patients are reminded that the information is not a substitute for professional advice and that they should talk to their dentists or physicians about the information they find.

Preliminary reports show that the patients at LSUSD are looking for information on proper toothbrushing technique, dry mouth, root canals, tooth decalcification, diabetic clinical trials in Louisiana, age-related macular degeneration, caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, depression in the older adult, and even ophthalmologists in St. Tammany Parish.

"I am thrilled with the results so far," Ms. Schiavo said. "What I find exciting is that the patients are using the terminals for both their dental and medical questions. This is what I had hoped would occur."

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Last Update 3/2010

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