Posted in Issue 98 January 2005 News from PAHO/WHO
At the end of 2004, PAHO conducted a study on the impact of its publications and training materials in four Spanish-speaking countries—Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Costa Rica—to gauge who our users are, their interests and expectations and especially, their level of satisfaction. The study yielded a sound idea of how the publications are used and the impact they have on the field of disaster reduction.
The study looked at four major categories: user profiles; awareness and consultation of the material; how the material is used and its impact; and the level of user satisfaction. Following is a sample of the most relevant conclusions.
Level of satisfaction
On average, users rate the sources of information and the publications as “good” or “very good.”
Readers under 30 years of age consider the content innovative. A majority of users (71%) between 31-60 years of age recognize clearly how this material has helped them achieve professional goals and therefore use the publications and other material more widely. Some adults over 61 found the publications difficult to comprehend and did not see any specific value added.
More than 62% of those surveyed are very satisfied with the quality and format of the publications. They consider the information contained in the publications credible and perceive the content as useful and up-to-date.
In terms of format, the CD-ROM generated the greatest degree of user satisfaction, although many users pointed out that it is important of this medium being well designed and user -friendly.
Dissemination, distribution, and access to publications
The web page and the newsletter Disasters are the key sources of information and provide the greatest satisfaction. Users also expressed satisfaction with the Publications Catalog, the Virtual Disaster Library, the Regional Disaster Information Center (CRID), and other local documentation centers. However, 17% of survey respondents noted the newsletter does not reach them on a regular basis.
When it comes to how users get the information, the highest level of satisfaction is reserved for the Internet, where users can download full-text copies of all publications. This is followed by individual responses to their requests or queries, the CRID, PAHO’s local offices, and PAHO meetings or workshops. It is interesting to note that although 93% of the respondents said they had Internet access, this does not necessarily mean they use this tool to access or download publications. The study indicated that access to publications is still a matter of technology, training and resources that limit widespread Internet use.
In terms of channels of distribution, there is an “average” level of satisfaction, primarily because users think there are not enough options. The study pointed out that respondents have the most difficulty in obtaining hard copies of books.
Who uses PAHO’s disaster publications and materials? Professionals interested in emergency and disaster management, technicians in specialized institutions, health sector personnel, NGOs and municipalities, and staff at the decision making level, in that order.
Over the years, these publications have sparked the interest of new generations of disaster professionals and, for many who were trained or specialized using these materials, they have had a significant impact on their work. Twenty-five years ago, disaster management was still a relatively new field and there was little literature available. These publications have opened the door for many and helped to develop a common knowledge base, particularly in the Americas.
Some of the suggestions and comments from those surveyed include:
- An interest in participating in the “field-testing” of new materials.
- The need to improve distribution.
- Publish more material geared toward the managerial and political levels.
- Update obsolete publications.
- An expressed interest on the part of many in the four countries surveyed to develop further material on mental health, the transport of dangerous materials and chemical accidents.