Planetreee Commemorates 25 Years of Consumer Health Libraries at Annual Conference

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Planetree, Inc., a consumer health organization and a leader in the patient-centered care movement, commemorated 25 years of community-based health information services at its 2006 Annual Conference held October 11-13 in San Diego, California.

Planetree, Inc., a consumer health organization and a leader in the patient-centered care movement, commemorated 25 years of community-based health information services at its 2006 Annual Conference held October 11-13 in San Diego, California. The 25th anniversary of one of the world's first consumer health libraries was cause for celebration, and provided the opportunity for 700 attendees to pay tribute to those hospitals, libraries and librarians across the country that are fulfilling Planetree's mission of empowering patients, families, and communities through information and education.

Opened in 1981 in San Francisco, the original Planetree Health Resource Center continues to provide in-depth medical library services to the public. Now known as the Health and Healing Library, its consumer health information and education services are part of the Institute for Health & Healing, an integrative medicine program at California Pacific Medical Center. Breaking new ground a quarter-century ago, the first Planetree library is today among the largest medical libraries in the U.S. that focus on serving the general public.

"Twenty five years ago, medical information available to patients was scant," explained Susan Frampton, Planetree's President. "In this age of information overload, it can be easy to take for granted the access we have to medical and health information. From the Internet and multiple media sources to the growth of Planetree and other health libraries worldwide, medical information is appreciably more available to patients eager to educate themselves and take greater responsibility for their own health."

In the 25 years since the first Planetree health library opened, many of the over 100 Planetree- affiliated hospitals nationwide have created health resource libraries for their communities. Many have been assisted by Candace Ford, a veteran library director. She was honored for her contributions to Planetree with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to her in a surprise ceremony at the conference.

A medical librarian for 25 years, Ford created Planetree's second oldest Health Resource Center, which opened in San Jose, California in 1989. Since then, she has partnered with other agencies to create five branch libraries, targeting underserved populations throughout Silicon Valley. Her experience and expertise have been widely tapped by Planetree member organizations as well as other medical and library institutions, eager to replicate in their communities Ford's vision of providing patients, their loved ones and the community-at-large with the information they need to better understand medical conditions they live with, treatment options available to them, and wellness strategies to safeguard their health.

"Free access to real medical information—including technical material not typically available to the public—was a radical notion when the first Planetree library opened. National media called the library 'revolutionary' and 'maverick,' " Ford noted. "Consumers and patients began to demand more information and more partnership with their health care professionals. And though the ways we can get medical information have changed remarkably in 25 years, one thing has not. People in the middle of a health concern are best served when there is a human connection as well as an information connection. The expertise in Planetree health libraries is only matched by the care and compassion of their staff and volunteers," said Ford.

Recognizing that medical information can often be confusing, cryptic and overwhelming to the layperson, Ford has also played a vital role in developing the Planetree Classification Scheme, designed to organize health and medical libraries so that people can find information without the specialized knowledge of a health professional. She also co-wrote the chapter "Informing and Empowering Diverse Populations: Consumer Health Libraries and Patient Education" in the award-winning book Putting Patients First, used by many as a guide to implementing Planetree's internationally-recognized model of patient-centered care.

A former newspaper reporter, bookstore manager, and corporate librarian, Ford received her master's in library science from the University of California at Berkeley, and has been with the San Jose Planetree Health Library since its 1987 inception. In addition to her work on behalf of Planetree, she frequently gives presentations on health literacy and information advocacy to local and national groups of medical librarians, health professionals and literacy experts.

Planetree's Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to an individual who has personally advanced Planetree's mission of transforming the way health care is delivered from the perspective of the patient. Past recipients include Angelica Thieriot, Planetree's founder; Laura Gilpin, a nurse on the original Planetree Unit and lifelong advocate for patient-centered care; and architect Marc Schweitzer for his contributions to Planetree's healing health care design principles.

Planetree — a not-for profit organization based in Derby, CT — has been at the forefront of the effort to personalize, humanize, and demystify the health care system for nearly three decades. Today, Planetree is a global community of 70 organizations representing 112 acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and libraries; approximately 1.3 million admissions annually; over 25,000 staffed beds; fifteen million out-patient visits; and over 100,000 annual births.


For a list of Planetree affiliates, visit Planetree's website at

For a list of Planetree and other extensive medical libraries open to the public, see the Medical Library Association's website at


Lisa Donnarumma


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