African Index Medicus: Improving access to African health information
Information flow is the key to improving health development, especially in the developing countries. African medical publications are poorly represented in the major medical electronic databases. African Index Medicus is a joint initiative between WHO and AHILA to store regionally-generated biomedical information. Proposed in 1980 and initiated in 1993, AIM was reactivated in 2005 and now emphasizes full text accessibility and web publishing. To promote use of AIM and health knowledge-sharing, the WHO has provided national focal points with training, computers and scanners. Publishing still faces challenges of strengthening networks of national focal points and African medical editors as well as transferring technology and experience to African countries. There still remain the more basic constraints of costs, training, marketing and low status of both research and publishing. The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases further found problems of underfunding, irregular publication schedules, low quality articles and lack of international visibility. A TDR survey in early 2006 revealed that there is increased health research and journal activities in African countries; however, there are still challenges of quality, content and accessibility. Since its inception in 2002 the Forum of African Medical Editors has held three training workshops for editors to correct some of these problems. AIM will soon be part of the WHO Global Health Library; both provide access to health information which will contribute to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for health. These initiatives promise more health information for resource-poor settings, especially in Africa.
South African Family Practice Vol. 49 (2) 2007: pp. 5-11