Local library provides connection point for healthcare

Women in rural areas of the Lowcountry can access healthcare services at Charleston County Public Library branches. 

These services are offered through a partnership with the WISE (Women In the Southeast) Telehealth Network which aims to improve women’s health and well-being through telehealth appointments at local libraries and the mobile library in the rural Lowcountry. 

“We designed the WISE Telehealth Network in response to women’s needs and what they told us they wanted, which was a confidential, women’s-centered, convenient opportunity to get telehealth services as an extension of their everyday care, not a replacement of their in-person care,” said Dr. Beth Sundstrom, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor and Director of Women’s Health Research Team at the College of Charleston. 

In recent years, the Women’s Health Research Team conducted research to better understand how to fulfill the promise of telehealth and especially how to serve the needs of women in rural areas of South Carolina. 

The Charleston County Public Library system is one of five organizations statewide receiving funding to make local libraries hubs of community health, according to Sundstrom. The initiative is funded by the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare

Offering telehealth at the Charleston County Public Library was a “natural fit,” according to Devon Andrews, Associate Director of Community Engagement at Charleston County Public Library. 

“Libraries are vibrant community hubs,” Andrews said. “They are constantly evolving to meet the needs of their communities.”

Dr. Gweneth Lazenby, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Faculty Obstetrician and Gynecologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said offering telehealth at local libraries gives more women access to healthcare.

“One of the things that we struggle with as a state is that about a third of our population lives in rural areas and may not have access to even primary care in their area, so this really improves access.”

Amy Chang, Community Health Worker for the Charleston County Public Library, said offering telehealth services at public libraries helps women prioritize their healthcare needs. 

“I find that when I mention that they can see a doctor in the library, rather than traveling 40 minutes downtown, they are very excited about it,” Chang said. “Making it more convenient can make them want to make time for it.”