Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia was founded in 1787 "to advance the science of medicine and to thereby lessen human misery." The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was founded in 1788 and is an independent research library of books and archives that serves hundreds of scholars, health professionals, students, and popular writers each year.
In 1990, Library services were divided into the Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division of the Library and the Historical Collections. The Library was designated a historical library in 1996 to recognize its function as a repository for the history of medicine. The Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division (Public Services) was expanded to provide a coordinated, cohesive approach to College programs and services designed for public access. The division now encompassed the Modern Library, the C. Everett Koop Community Health Information Center (CHIC), the College Gallery, and the Mütter Museum. The reading room became appointment only – to the general public – in 1996. In 1997, governance voted to officially make the Library a historical library, de-emphasizing modern reference and transferring most of those activities to the CHIC. The Director of the Library was in charge of the historical collections, with Public Services in charge of modern reference and the CHIC.
The CHIC was a community resource that provided the public with access to the latest information about medical and health concerns. Available resources included electronic information, journals, newsletters, pamphlets, videocassettes, and a circulating collection of books. In the spring of 2002, the College decided to change the focus of the CHIC from a physical site to a virtual one, Philly Health Info (PHI). PHI was a web portal designed to provide consumers with increased access to medical and wellness information. With the implementation of PHI, the CHIC became defunct.
In the summer of 2000, the College completed an intensive two-year strategic planning process designed to chart its future. This resulted in the development of a Regional Community Health Information System (RCHIS) intended to provide health and medical information for the citizens of Greater Philadelphia through the internet. RCHIS was inspired by the success of the CHIC and the belief that communicative and educational opportunities through the medium of the internet were unlimited.
In January 2003, the Langeloth Foundation gave a leadership grant to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to study the feasibility of developing the RCHIS, which became known as Philly Health Info (PHI). This pilot project created a regionally-focused consumer health portal (www.phillyhealthlnfo.org), and established community access sites staffed by trained intermediaries to aid the public in accessing credible consumer health information, including local medical resources and services. In 2004, the Langeloth Foundation gave two additional grants, one for implementation of the PHI project, and one for a specific outreach project in North Philadelphia.
The College partnered with the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Health Department to launch the pilot project in 2003. The pilot project tested a virtual and community-based regional consumer health information system. It combined internet resources with volunteer-staffed community locations, to help computer users of all skill levels expand their knowledge about health issues and local medical resources. The pilot community location was installed in the Northeast Regional Library, adjacent to a city health clinic. Kiosks were later installed in additional locations, including senior centers and the Department of Family Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Due to community demand, free health literacy workshops were developed to inform the public about finding and evaluating online health information. Professionals also sought tips and resources to address cultural, language and literacy barriers, as well as best practices for consumer health information and public health outreach projects.
In 2005, PHI was evaluated by Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC). Based on the evaluation, PHI decided to continue the kiosks with a greater amount of community participation and search for more collaboration opportunities. However, later in the year, staff decided to move away from the one-on-one kiosks and focus on promoting and enhancing the content of the website. The newly-formed Advisory Board met for the first time in October 2006.
By 2008, PHI had formed numerous content-sharing partnerships with health organizations throughout the Delaware Valley, and featured pages with authoritative health information and access to resources and services. Microsites, in partnership with other organizations, included "Maternal, Child, and Family Health" and "Recovery Philadelphia." PHI staff offered numerous workshops about health literacy for parents, teens, and health professionals. Unable able to secure grant funding after 2010, the College and PHI staff re-evaluated the program and its sustainability.
In Philly Health Info's eight years of operation, the power of search engines like Google and the growth of comprehensive sites, such as WebMD, grew dramatically, so PHI never reached its ultimate visitor and user goals. Additionally, the economic recession created challenges with obtaining dedicated corporate and foundation funding during the grant period. Because of these factors, as well as a desire to integrate the increasingly related efforts of its public health and broader educational initiatives, in 2010, the College decided to incorporate PHI into its plans for a new College website.
The College received a grant extension from Pew Charitable Trust in June 2010 in order to integrate PHI and its associated community health outreach and health literacy initiatives into the broader scope of the College's public health and educational infrastructure. In January 2011, a new department, the Center for Education and Public Initiatives (renamed the Center for Education in 2017), was formed that combined the many educational and public health initiatives at the College.
Much of PHI's website content was migrated to the new College site in 2012. Users visiting phillyhealthinfo.org were greeted with the following message:
Over the next few months, PhillyHealthInfo.org will be evolving into a new Consumer Health section, hosted on the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website. By featuring the most visited and useful content from PhillyHealthInfo.org in this new way, we can better highlight the relationship between this content and the College's many activities and programs, with a special emphasis on incorporating the collections in our world-famous Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library. It's been an extremely rewarding experience producing PhillyHealthInfo.org over the last 8 years and bringing our region much-needed access to health information will remain an essential mission for the College.
In addition, health content targeted specifically for youth will be the focus of our new WhatstheMutter.org site. WhatstheMutter.org will allow the College to highlight the work of our many youth-focused programs, including the Karabots Junior Fellows and the Cephalon Summer Internship."
Core elements from PHI, including lessons, trainings, and calendar/events listings, were included on a page ("Public Resources") of the new Center for Education and Public Initiatives section of the College website. A new website, whatsthemutter.org (WTM), was created for some of the youth-oriented resources. These pages were expected to form the basis of the public health resources in the new College website.
With an active Center for Education and Public Health Initiatives, as well as the College's Section on Public Health and Preventive Medicine, WTM and the "Public Resources" page were discontinued in 2015. As of 2018, the College does not have a public health resources page or portal.
The Records of Philly Health Info span the years 1999 to 2010, and include documentation from pre-planning phases of the project, background information, correspondence, advisory committee meeting minutes, grant funding reports, outreach and partnership files, and website design and maintenance details. The collection is divided into nine series, which resemble the original order in which the material was received. Researchers interested early 21st-century public health initiatives by non-profit organizations will find the materials significant, especially if they are interested with community partnerships and collaboration work.
Series 1: Administration dates from 1999 through 2010, and is divided in six subseries. "Marketing" (1999 to 2010) includes advertisements for PHI, correspondence regarding promotion, events held at the College to promote PHI, correspondence and other material related to the website, and several 3-D objects, including signage, keychains, a stress ball, and other 'swag.' The "Legal paperwork" subseries dates from 2003 to 2006 and deals mostly with copyright and trademark issues. The "RCHIS Subcommittee" file provides insight in to the early planning phases for PHI in 2003. Researchers interested in the development and progression of PHI will find the "Reports" subseries (2005-2010) and "Strategic Planning" subseries (2006-2008) especially useful, as they provide evidence and a summary timeline of the changes the project went through.
Series 2: Committees spans the years 2002 to 2009, and includes correspondence and meeting minutes from the Advisory Board, which was established in 2006. The series also contains meeting minutes and other materials from the Portal Advisory Committee, which was implemental in the planning and first launching of the website at phillyhealthinfo.org in 2003.
Series 3: Grants and Funding, dating from 2001 to 2010, includes information about the grants received by College to plan, implement, and enhance Philly Health Info, including grants from the Langeloth Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, and STEPS to a Healthier Philadelphia. The final reports to the Langeloth Foundation and the narrative reports about the Pew grant provide good, detailed overviews of the project, from its implementation in 2003 through its near end in 2010. However, information regarding the decision to switch from the kiosks and the website to only the website during the years 2005 and 2006 will not be found in this series.
Series 4: Kiosks covers the early years of PHI, from 2003 to 2005, and holds information about kiosk locations and requirements for those locations. Additionally, researchers will find materials relating to the hiring and training of volunteers used to staff the kiosks. A major part of the series, "Northeast Regional Library (NERL)" and "Other Locations" include correspondence, instructions, and user and volunteer surveys from PHI's first kiosk location, as well as later installations.
Series 5: Project Planning contains background and planning information about PHI and spans the years 2001 to 2005. Project proposals and brainstorming for a Regional Community Health Information System (RCHIS) can be found in this series, as well as early meeting minutes from PHI staff meetings, and project sustainability outlooks. The evaluation of PHI, done by the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation in 2005, provides greater insight into the operations, success, and failures of the first two years of the project.
Series 6: Outreach, dating from 2001 through 2008, makes up nearly half of the collection, and includes what are known as "Call reports" – meetings and site visits to institutions, such as senior centers and Free Library branches, who were interested in either hosting kiosks or health literacy training sessions. Series 6 also includes more detailed information about the partnership formed with the Free Library in 2003 as part of the pilot project as well as the kiosk installed in the Northeast Regional Library branch. Partnerships formed later in PHI's lifecycle, such as the one with the Delaware County Public Library System, are represented in this series. Researchers will also find presentations given by PHI staff at conferences, such as Health Information Access (Lancaster, PA, 2008, and the Medical Library Association in 2001).
Series 7: Website, dating from 2001 to 2010, holds feedback and user testing of the first version of the website in 2003; content and contact information for the 'microsites' launched circa 2008; and the website redesign in 2006. The contract, work proposal, and project updates for the website design and redesign are found in the subseries "MRB Communication/Verve Internet."
Series 8: Workshops and Training (2003-2005) contains presentations and workbooks used while training volunteers to staff the kiosks, as well as "intermediary" staff from locations which hosted kiosks.
Series 9: Events contains flyers and correspondence related to lectures held at the College and sponsored by Philly Health Info for the years 2006 through 2010.
The records of Philly Health Info were likely transferred to the archives by PHI staff when the program was discontinued circa 2010-2011. The College had no Archivist at the time. The materials extended nearly 18 linear feet, and were comprised of at least four separate staff members' filing systems. An attempt was made to stick to the original order as best as possible while weeding out numerous duplicates. Without a clear organizational structure to begin with – or a timeline of the PHI project – files are arranged in either alphabetical and/or chronological order, and some series contain subseries that also fall under the scope of other series.
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