Dana L. Ladd, Ph.D. was an invited speaker at the Global Liver Institute Advanced Advocacy Academy Annual Symposium on Sept. 19, 2022. She provided the presentation, “Finding Reliable Consumer Health Information” for 81 patients and caregivers in attendance. Ladd, associate professor, is the health and wellness librarian at the VCU Medical Center Health and Wellness Library. The library is for patients, their families, and the community to find reliable consumer health information. 

According to the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with liver disease. The term “liver disease” refers to conditions that cause the liver to not function well.

Founded by Donna R. Cryer, J.D., following a life-saving liver transplant due to an autoimmune disease, the Global Liver Institute raises awareness of liver diseases, promotes research, and advances health policy. The mission of the global liver institute is: “to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted by liver disease through promoting innovation, encouraging collaboration and scaling optimal approaches to help eradicate liver diseases.”

As part of the Global Liver Institute’s mission, the institute offers a year-long Advanced Advocacy Academy culminating in an annual symposium aimed at patients, caregivers, family members and clinicians to enhance their skills as patient advocates. This year’s hybrid two-day symposium focused on patient-advocacy topics such as financial navigation, understanding clinical trials, living with disease, patient engagement and understanding healthcare policy. This year 81 advocates representing 22 states and nine countries and territories attended the symposium.  

Ladd’s presentation focused on evaluating health information for reliability and finding authoritative online health information to meet the information needs of patients and families dealing with liver disease. Ladd stressed the importance of stopping, thinking and evaluating health information before sharing or using the information to make decisions about health and provided the participants with evaluation criteria they can use to evaluate health information. “Finding reliable online health information is important so that patients can obtain information they can understand and use to make appropriate decisions about their health,” Ladd said.

The presentation concluded with a brief overview and demonstration of several reliable consumer health websites including MedlinePlus.gov and several rare disease sites for finding information about rare liver diseases and shared resources for finding support groups and connecting with others who share a similar healthcare journey. Ladd encouraged participants to turn to librarians for help finding health information and provided attendees with an overview of how librarians can help them.

Symposium leaders reported positive feedback from the audience about the presentation on finding reliable online health information. Catherine Evans, The Global Liver Institute Director of Global Operations stated,  “[Ladd] made such a difficult topic easy to understand. As a result of [her] expertise on the subject, our advocates had very meaningful discussions, and we are motivated and ready to pursue this newfound knowledge and advocate for liver patients.”

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