Objectives: This paper introduces the special supplement to the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) that documents the proceedings of the “Symposium on Community-based Health Information Outreach” held on December 2 and 3, 2004, at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The goal of the symposium was to explore new models of health information outreach that are emerging as technology dramatically changes the abilities of medical and health services libraries to provide resources and services beyond their traditional institutional boundaries, with particular concern for consumer health information outreach through community-based organizations. The symposium's primary objectives were to learn about successful and promising work that had already been done as well as to develop a vision for the future that could inform the NLM's next National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) contract. Another objective was to review and assess the NLM's Strategic Plan to Reduce Health Disparities with special emphasis on Native Americans.
Method: The paper describes the background events and rationale that led to the NLM's decision to convene the symposium and summarizes the supplement's ten other papers, some of which were presented at the symposium and some of which were written afterward to capture the symposium's working sessions.
Results: The symposium convened approximately 150 invited participants with a wide variety of perspectives and experience. Sessions were held to present exemplary outreach projects, to review the NLM's Strategic Plan to Reduce Health Disparities, to summarize the research underpinnings for evaluating outreach projects, and to provide a futurist's perspective. A panel of community representatives gave voice to the participants in outreach projects, and sixteen posters describing outreach projects were available, many of them with community representatives on hand to explain the work.
Implications: This JMLA supplement provides a comprehensive summary of the state of the art in community-based outreach and a jumping-off point for future outreach efforts.