Educational Games from the National Library of Medicine

It is no secret that children love to play games. Games are fun and challenging and if they can incorporate educational concepts all the better! A 2016 report from Project Tomorrow, “From Print to Pixel,” examines trends in digital education. The report indicates an increase in the use of gaming, animations, and other digital content in K-12 education. Some of the findings related to gaming include:

  • The use of gaming by teachers has doubled – from 23% in 2010 to 48% in 2015.
  • 57% of school principals admit that lack of training for teachers is a top barrier to expanding digital learning.
  • Teachers in elementary grades are more likely to use game-based learning.
  • Over 60% of middle school students play games for self-directed learning outside the classroom.

If you are a school media specialist or children’s librarian, you may be looking for health and science games or animations that you can recommend to teachers and students. Well the National Library of Medicine (NLM) does have apps for that (and websites too)! With input from teachers and students, NLM has created several games and interactive sites to teach about chemistry, biology, and environmental health.

Base Chase: In this game, players help DeeNA jump on fast moving platforms to grab bases of DNA to build DNA strands for different animals. Base Chase can be incorporated into biology curriculum and is geared towards high school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes. A video tutorial is included.

Bohr Thru: In the style of the popular Candy Crush game, Bohr Thru players can collect protons, neutrons, and electrons to create the first 18 elements of the periodic table. This is a fun way to increase knowledge of chemical elements and structures. Bohr Thru can be included as part of chemistry curriculum and is geared towards high school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

Run4Green: In this Mario-style game, players can collect coins and complete environmentally friendly tasks while learning about important environmental health issues such as, renewable energy, green products, and greenhouse gas reduction. Run4Green is geared towards students in 5-8 grades. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

TOXInvaders: In this fast-paced game, players use a launcher to destroy toxic chemicals falling from the sky. Capturing “good chemicals” earns protective shield points. To move on the next level, players must take a brief quiz about the featured chemicals. TOXInvaders can be implemented into chemistry or environmental health curriculum, and is geared towards middle school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes. A tutorial is included.

ToxMystery: In this interactive learning site, players help Toxie the Cat find chemical hazards hidden throughout the house. Toxie will do a little dance whenever all the hazards are located, and along the way players learn how different substances in the environment affect human and pet health. There are also resource pages for teachers and parents. This site is available in both English and Spanish, and is geared towards ages 7-11 years old. It is freely available online at

Looking to pair these games with other NLM resources?

  • GeneEd: A genetics resource for students and teachers in grades 9-12. Includes lesson plans, animations, virtual and hands-on lab experiments, links to articles, and information on genetics careers.
  • Environmental Health Student Portal: A resource on environmental health for middle school students and teachers. Includes lesson plans, videos, animations, articles, games, and experiments. The information is focused on air pollution, chemicals, climate change, and water pollution.
  • ToxTown: Provides information on toxic chemicals in everyday locations, and how the environment impacts human health. This interactive site focuses on six specific environments: city, farm, town, US Border Regions, port, and US Southwest. Includes a resource page for teachers. Available in English and Spanish. For all ages.


Project Tomorrow. (2016). From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations and Simulations within K-12 education. Retrieved from

Dana Abbey, MLS is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. She is based at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Library. You can reach her at


Zika Virus: What We Know, What We Don’t Know

The Zika virus has been around for decades, but only recently has gotten the attention of the U.S. with the rapid spread of the virus in the Western Hemisphere. The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection with mostly mild symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – many will never even know they were infected. While mosquito seasons vary across the U.S., they often come with warming temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and with summer underway, many areas are now addressing ways to prepare for increased exposure to mosquitoes.

Spread of the Zika virus in the United States thus far has been limited to travel-associated cases, 591 as of May 25, 2016. While the majority of transmissions occur through the bite of an infected female Aedes species mosquito (only females bite humans), the virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus, through sexual contact with an infected male, and through blood transfusions. Transmission from mother to fetus is especially troublesome because it can cause microcephaly – babies are born with unusually small heads and brains that have not developed properly, and other birth defects.

Because sexual transmission seems tied to the Zika virus’s presence in infected males’ semen, proper condom use or not having sex are prevention measures. It’s not known if an infected woman can transmit the virus through sexual contact, or if it can be passed through vaginal fluids or salvia. For women trying to get pregnant, it’s now recommended waiting at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive if they or their partner live in or are returning from Zika infected areas.

While there have been no confirmed blood transfusion-transmission in the U.S., there have been several confirmed cases in Brazil.

Consumer/Patient Education Resources

If you know of a great resource, let me know and I will add it! Please feel free to share or reuse this post.

Dana Abbey, MLS[i]

[i] Funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.


Health Insurance Literacy

Health insurance is not only one of the costliest products a consumer will purchase, with an average health insurance marketplace price tag of $386 per month for an individual, it is also one of the most complex products to understand. Many people think they have the skills and knowledge to select and utilize their health insurance, but the evidence shows otherwise. Some examples:

  • A 2014 Kaiser Family Foundation report found that 37% of enrollees did not know the amount of their deductible, and 46% thought they were getting a subsidy though it was actually 85%.
  • Three out of 4 people in a 2013 survey by the American Institutes of Research stated confidence in their knowledge of health insurance, but only 20% could calculate the out-of-pocket cost for a visit with an in-network doctor.
  • A 2014 report from the Urban Institute noted that nearly 50% of adults reporting limited literacy and low numeracy skills, with income below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), had difficulty locating information to help them support their insurance plan choices.

This lack of literacy can prove detrimental to the consumer if they select a plan that doesn’t provided needed benefits or puts them at financial risk. The concept of “health insurance literacy” is fairly new, and while there is no official definition it has been described as “the degree to which individuals have the knowledge, ability, and confidence to find and evaluate information about health plans, select the best plan for their financial and health circumstances, and use the plan once enrolled.” Another key issue not addressed in this definition is the ability of the consumer to retain insurance coverage over time.

In 2014, the American Institutes of Research reported on their work to develop a measure of health insurance literacy. They created a conceptual model containing four domains: Knowledge, Information Seeking, Document Literacy, and Cognitive Skills. Each domain presents a number of facets that might prove difficult for a consumer to understand, but could also be used as a tool for those developing information for consumers, or those assisting consumers navigate the health insurance landscape.

Resources for those assisting consumers/patients

Resources for consumers/patients

  • Get free help applying, selecting a plan and enrolling in your area at
  • Numerous healthcare decision-support tools to help individuals understand healthcare costs.
  • Resources for selecting or changing a plan, plan categories, determining the total cost of care, and understanding the different kinds of plans.
  • MedlinePlus: Health Insurance. Resources to assist consumers understand and select insurance, includes patient handouts. Many in Spanish.

If you know of a great resource, let me know and I will add it! Please feel free to share or reuse this post.

Dana Abbey, MLS[i]

[i] Funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

Reflections of CALCON15

Posted on behalf of Sarah Greenberg, Director of Library Resources, Grand County Library District

CSLLogo-CMYK-VAs libraries expand with streaming video, 3-D printers, and makerspaces, some of us with shrinking budgets and limited space are feeling left behind. Fortunately, CALCON 2015 opened my eyes to some of the small and inexpensive things we can do at our libraries to open doors for our patrons. Things like offering healthy snacks to help feed our kids who might be growing up hungry. Or making sure that all staff know how to handle basic tech questions, so patrons feel comfortable asking anyone for help with an eBook. Even weeding your collection to maintain a reputation for currency and reliability can help to build a relationship of trust between a library and its patrons.

One of my favorite sessions, presented by Lindsay Roberts and Andrea Reveley, discussed how to obtain and make use of patron feedback. My library already has a guest book at each branch, which has been a wonderful source of (largely positive) patron thoughts and comments. Roberts and Reveley suggested using a “Sorry Log” to track patron complaints, noting that this method allows you to tally the number of complaints about different services or areas. They used the example of students requesting double-sided printing, circulation desk staff noting these in the “sorry log,” and the tech department realizing the extent of the requests and implementing a change. And this change began with a simple paper and pencil! Continue reading ‘Reflections of CALCON15’

MY CALCON15 Experience

Posted on behalf of Sharon Bassist, Colorado State Library CALCON Scholarship Recipient CSLLogo-CMYK-V

Hello! I am Sharon Bassist, the new Program Coordinator for the Clear Creek County Library District; Idaho Springs and Georgetown for those of you unfamiliar with the area. I was one of the Colorado State Library CALCON 2015 Small/Rural Library Scholarship recipients! Because I was honored with a scholarship, I get the opportunity to write my first blog post, so if this is not your normal post, that would be why! This is also my first CALCON as I am new to the library field. I have all sorts of new opportunities with my new job and I love it!

I really enjoyed my CALCON experience! The keynote speakers were very enjoyable. Ryan Warner from CPR and Salvador Avila were my favorites. Who knew that learning to be a DJ could be incorporated with STEM programs and offered after school at the library?? That is thinking outside the box at its most creative, SO COOL!!!

I was able to take full advantage of the conference and really did learn so much. My favorite session was “Walk This Way: Taking Storytime Out of the Library.” StoryWalk was an entirely new concept to me and I am planning on bringing it to life in our county. Having libraries in two different towns grants me the opportunity to execute this idea in different forums. I am also excited to incorporate it with the Wellness theme for the Summer Reading Program for 2016. We are small mountain towns and can offer this walk/storytime as a hike around the waterfall, a walk down the main streets with the stories in store fronts and on a walk from the library to the local park. I did attend many different sessions, but this one was the most memorable and one that I feel I have the opportunity to bring to life in our county.

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to go to CALCON and learn about the wonderful world of libraries. I hope to be able to attend this conference again in the future to continue my love for learning and creating. Who knows, if this blog goes well, you may hear from me again when I get my StoryWalk into place!

Colorado State Library Scholarships Available for PLA 2016!

CSLLogo-CMYK-VThe Colorado State Library is pleased to announce that we are offering four (4) PLA 2016 conference registration scholarships! Our goal is to develop leaders within the Colorado library community by helping library staff who might not otherwise be able to attend the 2016 PLA Conference in Denver April 7 – 9, 2016.

Anyone who is a CAL or PLA member currently working in a public library in Colorado, and not already registered for the conference is eligible to apply.  Because we are looking to develop leaders throughout the library community, there are no requirements for minimum or maximum work experience.

For more information and details on how to apply, check out our scholarship information on the Library Creation & Learning Centers website!

Funding Available for Continuing Education!

Posted in behalf of the ALA Learning Round Table


There’s nothing like attending a library conference or workshop to spark new interest, excitement and motivation in a library employee. That’s why Pat Carterette, a former Staff Development specialist, was always in the forefront of encouraging people to sign up, go…learn something new!

In her memory and to help further that legacy, the Learning Round Table of the American Library Association is offering the Pat Carterette Professional Development Grant. The grant winner will be awarded up to $1,000 to attend a continuing education event. Monies can be used to cover registration, travel, lodging or other expenses.

How can you win? Simply fill out the online application before March 1, 2016.

Supplemental letters of support and other materials can be emailed to: Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, Learning Roundtable/Pat Carterette Scholarship Committee Chair, at

The grant award will be announced at a Learning Roundtable meeting at ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida in June, 2016. The scholarship money can be used anytime in 2016-2017.

In honor of Pat’s spirit of learning, apply today!


Mark your calendar for RIPL 2016!

ripl_logoAre you…

… a public librarian, administrator, or other staff interested in getting started using data for savvy and strategic planning?

… looking for both inspiration and instruction in a hands-on, participatory environment?

… seeking to learn about outcomes and how to measure library impact?

… committed to leading your organization in making data-based decisions?

…eager to develop a peer network  to support your research and evaluation efforts?

Launched in 2015, the Research Institute for Public Libraries (RIPL) brings together people from across the country (rural, suburban, and urban public libraries) for an intensive, participatory learning experience. Offered by the Colorado State Library and the Colorado Library Consortium, this year’s institute will take place September 30-October 3, 2016 in Denver, CO. Participants will learn about topics such as:

  • designing outcome-based evaluation of programs and services
  • assessing the needs of your community
  • techniques for tracking public library data and using these data for planning, management, and proving worth to your community
  • using data and stories to demonstrate library impact
  • aligning research efforts with national initiatives such as Edge Benchmarks, the Impact Survey, and Project Outcome

Mark your calendar! Enrollment opens January 26, 2016 – and only 100 participants will take part in this immersive learning experience.

Find out more at

The 2015 Legislative Blue Book is Now Available in Audio

CSLLogo-CMYK-VThanks to the efforts of the staff and volunteers at the Colorado Talking Book Library, the Colorado Legislative Blue Book is now available as an MP3. You can also access a PDF version of the Blue Book on the Colorado Talking Book website as well.

Veteran’s Health Information Resources

Veterans and their family members need reliable health information resources sensitive and pertinent to their needs. They are unique community members with unique life events and experiences. Many of the skills and coping mechanisms veterans developed during service may prove counterproductive or be misunderstood in civilian life. This, in addition to physical injuries and mental health issues, can make readjustment challenging for the individual, family members, and health providers.

Military Health Issues

Our nation’s nearly 24 million veterans have greater rates of obesity and diabetes, and over one-third suffer from arthritis. Suicide rates among veterans are 7-8 times higher than the general population – 1 nearly every 65 minutes. Military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan survived wounds in numbers far greater than in previous wars – some 48,000 – due to advances in body armor, combat medicine, and improved evacuation procedures. However, the injuries sustained – traumatic brain injury, amputation, blindness, spinal cord injuries, and burns – require sophisticated, comprehensive, and often lifetime care. Mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), are being reported in high numbers of returning service members. Veterans injured in these two wars were more than twice as likely as those uninjured to have difficulty readjusting to civilian life, and nearly half stated strains in family relationships and frequent outbursts of anger. By the end of 2010, 2.15 million service members had been deployed, and of those returning:

  •  23% suffered from mild traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  •  20% from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  •  37% from depression
  •  39% reported problems with alcohol


Access to Care

Access to healthcare after deployment can be an additional challenge. Veterans are not automatically eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. Eligibility is based on veteran status, service-related disabilities, income level, and other factors. Even if an individual is eligible, barriers such as proximity to a VA facility and cost-sharing requirements may affect seeking care in the VA system.

Rural veterans face additional health care challenges for a variety of reasons, including unequal access to higher quality services, shortages in qualified health professionals, lower incomes, and limited transportation options. On average, rural Veterans travel between 30-90 minutes for primary care, and 60-120 minutes for inpatient care. Forty percent of the nation’s veterans live in rural areas; three-fourths of rural veterans are over the age of 55.


Nearly 1 in 7 homeless adults are veterans, with another 1.5 million at risk of homelessness. PTSD, depression, TBI, substance abuse, low income, unemployment, and difficulty reintegrating into society after long and repeated tours of duty contribute to this surge in homelessness. The Open Doors ( program, initiated to end homelessness by 2015, reported a 17% reduction in 2012. This program, a collaboration of 19 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) member agencies, works to increase stable and affordable housing, provide opportunities for employment and improve access to healthcare.



There are many government sponsored and non-profit organizations serving the needs of veterans and their families. The Veterans Health Resource Guide ( provides a wealth of information for veterans, family members, care givers, and health providers. This guide has information on military health and exposures, clinical care information, insurance and benefits, recommended reading, and policy information. A few of the resources are highlighted below:

Amputee Coalition

The nation’s leading organization on limb loss, offering education, support and advocacy. Provides information on what amputees might experience the first 12 months after limb loss, prosthetics, skin and tissue care, and physical therapy.


Military Families Resource Center

From the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This sites focus is the mental health of the veteran, spouse, partner, children and caregivers. Information on how to talk with children about deployment and reintegration, how to deal with media coverage of conflicts, and the needs of returning service members.


Women Veterans Health Care

Women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population. The Department of Veterans Affairs has several initiatives to improve services for women veterans. This site proves information on health care services for women including reproductive care, rehabilitation, mental health, and treatment for military sexual trauma.



MedlinePlus has over 900 health topics, including military health. Resources for coping with deployment and separation, illness and injuries, the mental health effects of military service, and family issues.



-Dana Abbey, Colorado/Health Information Literacy Coordinator

-Terri Ottosen, Consumer Health Coordinator, NN/LM Southeastern/Atlantic Region

1 Department of Veteran Affairs. Kemp, RN PhD, Janet, and Robert Bossarte, PhD. “Suicide Data Report, 2012.” (2013): N. pag. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. <>.
2 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the name for the war in Afghanistan. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is the name of the conflict in Iraq that began on March 20, 2003, and ended on December 15, 2011. On September 1, 2010, Operation New Dawn (OND) became the new name of OIF (Secretary of Defense Memorandum, February 17, 2010).
3 “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era.” Social and Demographic Trends. Pew Research Center, 05 Oct. 2011. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. <>.
4 Committee on the Assessment of Readjustment Needs Of Military Personnel, Veterans, And Their Families. “Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families.” Institute Of Medicine, 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. <>.
5 Skupien, PhD, M.S., R.N, Mary Beth. “The Health Needs of Rural Veterans.” FORUM: Translating Research Into Quality Health Care For Veterans. Department Of Veterans Affairs, Oct. 2010. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. <>.

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