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Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association

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The Information Management of Health Visitors:
With specific reference to their community development activities”

This naturalistic study aimed to identify the main features of health visitors’ experience and practice in terms of managing information, with particular reference to their public health and community development activities. The emergent objectives were to explore information perceptions, identify information needs and information behaviour, describe information flows and suggest a way forward with regard to health visitors’ information use. The research explored 3 settings, all under community trusts in England. The initial setting was used to inform the study. The research was framed within the methodological tradition of interpretivism.

Naturalistic inquiry patterns using qualitative methods were applied to provide insights into a so far unexamined area. Interviews and observation were used to collect data. The NUD*IST software package was used to aid qualitative data analysis. The code and retrieve method was used to develop theory. Widely recognised information management concepts such as information audit to assess information need, and process models of information management common to the organisational context were applied at operational level to represent health visitors’ information environment in relation to their community development work. The study found that the values and beliefs of health visitors had a large impact on what information was needed, and how and why information was used.

Three broad categories of information need were identified; ‘identify the needs of residents’, ‘run projects’, and ‘how to do the job’. The study concludes that community development may be viewed as ‘information work’, given the ‘information facilitation’ role that health visitors undertake on behalf of the residents they are involved with. The development of an information policy is recommended. Further research should look at how a community development approach can be integrated into the primary health care team, and what Community Information Networks, and technological developments in the NHS can offer health visitors.

Unpublished Theses, University of Sheffield, 2000

Research Fellow
Department of General Practice and Primary Care
University of Sheffield Community Sciences Centre
Northern General Hospital, Herries Road
Sheffield S5 7AU

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