woman at library
October is Health Literacy Month, an opportunity to visit a UHN Patient and Family Library. (Photo: Pexels)​

Since her cancer surgery, Marilyn has been experiencing pain in her neck and back.  She has tried many ways to address the pain – but it wasn't until a recent visit to a UHN Patient and Family Library that Marilyn unexpectedly found the information she has been looking for.

After picking up a book entitled, A Pain in the Neck, Marilyn was able to find a new explanation for her post-surgery pain.  She is now excited to bring her new questions to her healthcare team and work with them to find an answer to her pain.  

"Because the book describes my symptoms exactly, I'm hopeful now that having this information can help me get appropriate treatment that will make me feel better."

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This wasn't the first time that the UHN Patient and Family Libraries provided Marilyn with health information to help her better understand and cope with her cancers.  She credits them with helping her to find resources when she was told she had a rare form of head and neck cancer, and most recently, a brain tumour. 

One of the resources she vividly recalls is Johns Hopkins patients' guide to head and neck cancer, a book she borrowed from the UHN Patient Libraries shortly after she was diagnosed.

 "It had questions I didn't even think about asking," Marilyn says. "When I first learned I had head and neck cancer, I was scared, but the information in this book helped me feel less worried and stressed about my cancer.

"It was so helpful that I went to the bookstore afterwards and bought it."  

Although she has gone to the public library for health information, it didn't compare to the specialized health information she was able to receive from UHN.

"When I go to the library at UHN, they know, they understand what I'm talking about – they have lots of other patients who have the same questions," she says.

Marilyn also describes how events, such as UHN Health Talks, are also an important source of information for her to learn from experts in the field. She also noted how helpful it is to learn from others during the question and answer period after every talk.

"You can hear someone else's question and you think, 'Oh yeah, that's familiar,'" she says.

Collage of all four libraries
UHN Patient and Family Libraries specialize in helping patients find the information to meet their specific needs, even if they don’t know what those needs are when they first come in. (Photos: UHN)​

People are often unsure of questions to ask to manage a new or chronic condition. Health literacy, one's ability to find and use health information to manage care and make decisions, includes knowing which questions to ask or where to go next.

Even people with high health literacy may struggle when faced with pain, anxiety, medicines, or other common challenges. Adding to this, online health information is often overwhelming, unclear or inaccurate. If people do not have the information they need to manage care, or struggle to understand it, it can compromise their safety.

October is Health Literacy Month, an opportunity to refer your patients and families to a UHN Patient and Family Library, or visit one yourself.

UHN Patient and Family Libraries specialize in helping patients find the information to meet their specific needs, even if they don't know what those needs are when they first come in.

As Marilyn has realized, "You get instant answers at the UHN Libraries. The UHN Library and Patient Education staff are part of the healthcare team."

For more information about the UHN Patient and Family Libraries, visit www.uhnpatienteducation.ca.​

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