Welcome to Healthinfo Island in Second Life I am Carolina Keats, a medical and consumer health librarian, working at a consumer health library in this virtual world. Healthinfo island has been funded by the National Library of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region to provide consumer health information services in Second Life. You’re standing in a space designed to be a welcoming environment – not ‘institutional’, but something for everyone to explore, and a place where you can learn and share your experiences. Starting from our central pavilion, you can see the medical library (led by Namro Orman, in rl a medical librarian at the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands, a building constructed by the National Library of Medicine’s Special Information Services, another owned by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, a classroom for workshops in our mountain garden, the consumer health library, and the new Accessibility Center, for information about disabilities coordinated by Gentle Heron. I’ve not even mentioned a multitude of informational displays to be explored, created by people from all over the world. (2) While health information is probably not the primary reason people join Second Life, we’ve found more than 70 health support communities – like diabetes, AIDS/HIV, breast cancer, and stroke survivors – during the course of our 18 month project period. Real people with very real health concerns, and the opportunity to explore what it means to erase boundaries between institutions and people. As part of our work here, we’ve helped to start a group called the Health Support Coalition, comprised of support group leaders, and intended to enable collaboration and information sharing as well as to mentor new support groups into being. (3) Health-related involvement in Second Life includes such things as experimentation with artificial intelligence, modeling scenarios for disaster planning, virtual representations of health entities such as the National Library of Medicine, the CDC, the UK, University of Plymouth based Sexual Health simulation, and much, much more. (4) At Second Life, people from global health associations partner to create events such as the recent World AIDS Day observations on Healthinfo Island. For that occasion, displays created by NLM’s own SIS office, by an HIV positive young person in Germany, and by a British researcher were made available. Speakers discussed AIDS/HIV activism in Second Life. Support group leaders shared their real life / Second life experiences, and a workshop was presented about finding top-quality information on AIDS/HIV, and how health librarians can help. (5) Other workshops have focused on finding top quality health information using MedlinePlus, and are concerned with helping sift through the avalanche of information on the web. But consumer health is more than a workshop. At Healthinfo Island, anyone can ask health related questions. I’ve been asked if I get ‘real’ consumer health questions. The answer is, absolutely! I’ve gotten questions about finding online support forums, the latest, experimental research on migraine therapy, disability and sexuality. To answer the questions, I’ve used resources such as MedlinePlus.gov, the premier portal site for consumer health information, PubMed.gov, home to Medline, and many others, especially those resources identified by CAPHIS, the Medical Library Association’s consumer health section. You can expect to Healthinfo Island’s displays, workshops, and reference services to build on evidence-based information, and to be most concerned with helping to empower people in their healthcare decision making. (5) If you’re thinking about starting a nonprofit health support group, or if you’re a health or information professional interested in getting involved, or just touring Second Life health resources, you can get a great start by browsing SLHealthy, which is a web-based wiki with information and links to many of the groups and locations concerned with health in Second Life. (6) This is just a VERY fast overview of what’s happening at Healthinfo Island, but we’d love the chance to tell you more, and welcome your visits and questions. We are learning as we go! One thing we’ve learned here is that what’s important in real life is also important here – maybe even more so. For that reason, our logo includes the words HEALTH, EMPOWERMENT, and COMMUNITY. Together, they symbolize our mission, and our ideals. Please contact me, Carolina Keats, or my colleagues Namro Orman and Gentle Heron, for a tour or meeting.
Consumer Health in a Virtual World HealthInfo Island