Virtual libraries, collaborative spaces, specialized dictionaries, directories, and full texts are but some of the information sources that comprise the Virtual Health Library (VHL), regionally and globally coordinated by BIREME, the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
Major inequities in access to health services persist in our Region as a consequence of a variety of factors that limit the possibilities of receiving medical care when and where it is needed. These inequities also affect access to information for informed decision making, as well as the capacity of health workers to utilize information and communications technologies to access that information.
The factors that widen the know-do gap are infrastructure for Internet access, telecommunications, equipment, access to training and educational materials, and distance or physical, cultural, or language barriers between information and the audiences that could benefit from it.
BIREME, through the VHL and other national and regional projects, implements PAHO’s technical cooperation program in scientific and technical information management and strives to build capacity in the countries for the production, organization, indexing, publication, dissemination, and use of scientific, technical, and factual information in decision-making processes and health activities. The VHL is essential to ensuring progressively well-informed, evidence-based public and personal health decisions.
The VHL is the product of a joint effort by every country in the Region of the Americas to set up and operate a scientific network and websites with technical information on health using information and communications technology. Evidence based advances in health care require the efficient production, organization, storage, retrieval, and free and equitable dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge through information and communications technology.
Objective 4.2 of the regional eHealth strategy, approved by the Member States of PAHO in 2011, urges the governments and PAHO/WHO to facilitate access to reliable, quality information to improve disease prevention in the population.
With satisfaction and a strong commitment, BIREME has shouldered this regional responsibility and day by day works hand in hand with the governments and their specialized institutions to make this dream a reality.
The Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information, also known by its original name of Regional Library of Medicine (BIREME), is a PAHO specialized center whose purpose is to provide technical cooperation in health science information. BIREME has been headquartered at the central campus of the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil since its creation in 1967, under the agreement between PAHO and the Government of Brazil.
Adalberto Tardelli, Director of BIREME, PAHO/WHO