PROMOTING ACCESS TO AFRICAN RESEARCH

African Health Sciences

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Sea-Change or Change Challenge? Health Information access in Developing Countries: The U.S. National Library of Medicine experience

J Royall, B Lyon

Abstract


Health professionals in developing countries want access to information to help them make changes in health care and contribute to medical research. However, they face challenges of technology limitations, lack of training, and, on the village level, culture and language. This report focuses on the U.S. National Library of Medicine experience with access: for the international medical/scientific community to health information which has been published by researchers in developing countries; for scientists and clinicians in developing countries to their own literature and to that of their colleagues around the world; for medical librarians who are a critical conduit for students, faculty, researchers, and, increasingly, the general public; and for the front line workers at the health center in the village at the end of the line. The fundamental question of whether or not information communication technology can make a difference in access and subsequently in health is illustrated by an anecdote regarding an early intervention in Africa in 1992. From that point, we examine programs to improve access involving malaria researchers, medical journal editors, librarians, and medical students working with local health center staff in the village. Although access is a reality, the positive change in health that the information technology intervention might produce often remains a mirage. Information and technology are not static elements in the equation for better access. They must function together, creating a dialectic in which they transform and inform one another and those whom their combination touches.

African Health Sciences 2011; 11(3): 457 - 463



AJOL African Journals Online