Journal of Community Health

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 192–199 | Cite as

Public Libraries: A Community-Level Resource to Advance Population Health

  • Morgan M. PhilbinEmail author
  • Caroline M. Parker
  • Mary Grace Flaherty
  • Jennifer S. Hirsch


Policy makers and public health practitioners rarely consider public libraries to be part of the health system, even though they possess several characteristics that suggest unrealized potential to advance population health. This scoping review uses an adapted social determinants framework to categorize current health-related work conducted by public libraries in the United States and to discuss libraries’ potential as ‘meso-level’ community resources to improve population health. Our discussion of libraries contributes to scholarship on place-based health disparities, by emphasizing the potential impact of institutions that are modifiable through social policy—e.g., parks, community centers, schools—and which have a conceptually clear or empirically documented relationship to health.


Public libraries Population health Place-based health disparities Meso-level 



This research was supported by a Grant from the National Institutes of Health (1 R01 MH098723, awarded to Jennifer Hirsch, Ph.D. & Paul Colson, Ph.D.) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (K01DA039804A).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.School of Information & Library Science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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