, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 785-793

Information needs in public health and health policy: Results of recent studies

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Clearly, much work needs to be done to address the diverse and sometimes unique on-line information needs of public health professionals and health policy analysts. In some cases, there are needs for complex new knowledge bases created via linkages among multiple databases (e.g., public health-relevant geographic information systems).

However, in many other cases, what is needed is a more systematic way of capturing the so-called grey literature: policy documents, government reports, legislative summaries, industry group publications, descriptions of best practices, and so on. In general, very little of this grey literature is formally peer reviewed, most is not available on-line, and almost none of it is accessible through such trusted databases as MEDLINE. Yet, it is frequently this practice-oriented literature that is of most importance to public health professionals and health policy analysts. New systems are needed to make this large and growing body of information accessible electronically in a well-indexed, timely, reasonably comprehensive, yet meaningfully filtered, manner. The development of such systems presents new and difficult challenges to those interested in ensuring on-line access to such information for health policy analysts and public health professionals.

Dr. O'Carroll is from the Public Health Practice Program Office, US Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),k assigned to the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the Public Health Service or by the US Department of Health and Human Services.