The increasing numbers of access to the information resources on the illness caused by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), available at the Virtual Health Library (VHL), show that BIREME is fulfilling its mission during the pandemic and demonstrates the relevance of its technical cooperation at national and international levels.
In view of the current “infodemic”, which even more harmful in a time of a global health emergency, having access to reliable, updated and scientific evidence-based information sources is essential to support researchers, health professionals, managers, and the population in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, being the most effective way to combat misinformation and fake news.
As new information arose on the illness and its virus, BIREME was advancing the development of a website to gather and highlight the most up-to-date and relevant information resources about the new Coronavirus, through the Window of Knowledge on COVID-19, launched at the beginning of February.
In just two weeks after its launch, this Window was already the most accessed among the ten windows previously published by BIREME. In the second week of its existence, it showed a 121.8% increase in views, compared to the first week. The third week decreased by 14.6% compared to the second, but soon had a series of growth of 115% in the fourth week, 48% in the fifth, 67.8% in the sixth, and 133% in the seventh week (March 16th), totaling more than 90 thousand views, an average of 1.2 views per minute. The day with the highest number of views, March 19th, recorded an average of 4.66 views per minute.
The localization of the users accessing the window on COVID-19 reinforces the importance of BIREME’s technical cooperation activities, as part of the Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health Department (EIH/PAHO/WHO) in Latin America and the Caribbean, while it also reiterates its relevance outside the American continent, principally with the accesses from the Portuguese-speaking countries and Spain, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Countries that access the window of knowledge, increase in views and origin of accesses. Source: Google Analytics
BIREME’s effort to maintain the interface of its portals in Portguese, Spanish, and English is even more justified when noting that 67.3% of the views of the COVID-19 window were in the Spanish version, 31.9% in Portuguese, and 0.8% in English. This distribution of languages also shows the opportune moment in which the window was launched, gaining visibility in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean at a time when the countries were still preparing their national and local plans to combat that which would become the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon analyzing the origin of user traffic, according to the list in Figure 1, it was identified that 50% arrive through Google, which demonstrates the high relevance of this window and the VHL domain (bvsalud.org) in this search engine. Observing the domains paho.org, intra.paho.org and campusvirtualsp.org on this list, there is an integration of communication and dissemination activities between BIREME, the Headquarters and Country Offices of PAHO/WHO to promote the window on COVID-19 as a tool for technical cooperation and the Organization’s Technical Units. The use of Facebook and Twitter is also significant and reinforces the power of information dissemination through social networks.
The window’s relevance in these countries can also be measured with the analysis of the websites that reference it, as noted in the examples in Figure 2, where it is possible to identify the national institutions that are promoting its use in the government, academic, and health services areas.
Figure 2: Examples of identified national institutions accessing the window of knowledge on COVID-19
The following graphs show how the access curve to the window on COVID-19 follows the events at national and international levels. This behavior is noted in 60% of the countries and territories of the Americas that access the window (21 of 35), which reflects the increased demand for information as local governments and health authorities disseminate information and data about the new Coronavirus.
Figure 3: Peru, the country that most accesses the window of knowledge on COVID-19 in the Andean Region.
Figure 4: Guatemala, the country that most accesses the window of knowledge on COVID-19 in the Central American Region
Figure 5: Puerto Rico, the country/territory that most accesses the window of knowledge on COVID-19 in the Latin Caribbean Region
Figure 6: Mexico, the country that most accesses the window of knowledge on COVID-19 in the North American Region
Figure 7: Brazil, the country that most accesses the window of knowledge on COVID-19 in the South American Region
This finding reinforces the importance of BIREME’s technical cooperation in developing and keeping the window on COVID-19 up to date, as in a time of a global health emergency, it has responded to the growing demand for access to reliable, updated, and relevant information in response to facing this pandemic.
In addition to the publication of the window on COVID-19, BIREME reinforced data processing and analysis structure to ensure a daily update of the information sources available in the VHL. With this effort, it seeks to offer access to the most up-to-date scientific and technical information.
Since January, BIREME has expanded the monitoring of access to documents about the new Coronavirus in the VHL.
Figure 8: Views of documents about COVID-19 available in the VHL information sources
Repeating the behavior of accesses to the window of knowledge on COVID-19, the access to documents available in the VHL information sources also follows the national and international events of the pandemic.
The analysis of the access statistics, utilizing the Google Analytics service as a data source, helps to highlight the response of BIREME’s technical cooperation in the face of an international health emergency.
The efforts to expedite the development and launch of the window of knowledge on COVID-19, as well as ensure a daily update of the scientific and technical information sources available in the VHL, generated a window of opportunity to expand the dissemination of reliable scientific information and evidence, making these information resources relevant and references for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to Renato Murasaki, Manager of Information Technologies and Methodologies at BIREME, “The challenges of combating the “infodemic” and expanding the access to health information are continuous. The experience and lessons learned this pandemic, regarding the organization and the dissemination of health information, will provide feedback for the planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of all the technical cooperation activities.”
Diego González, Director of BIREME, reinforces that “in times of crisis, having reliable information contributes to prevention, preparation, and response to the emergency, so it is recommended to maintain access to reliable sources related to the topic such as the WHO [https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019], PAHO [https://www.paho.org/en/topics/coronavirus-infections/coronavirus-disease-covid-19], Brazil’s Ministry of Health [https://coronavirus.saude.gov.br/], PAHO’s recently launched page of evidence on COVID-19 [https://covid19-evidence.paho.org/?locale-attribute=en], the Window of Knowledge, subject of this article [https://bvsalud.org/vitrinas/en/post_vitrines/novel_coronavirus/], as well as the information sources that have national recognition”.