The Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (EIH) of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is oriented at expanding the use of health information through data management, forecasting and definition of scenarios, using for this purpose the state of the art of information technologies. As part of this mission, the Department uses information and knowledge generated in the Latin America and Caribbean region and globally to build innovative products and services that aim to support evidence-based policies and sound decisions on public health issues at regional and global level.
In order to integrate its members, the Department conducts virtual seminars called ‘EIH Space’, aimed at sharing progress and search for solutions, common understanding, and the coordinated participation of all its members, the technical units of Health Information Systems (IS), Health Analysis and Equity Metrics (HA), Knowledge Translation (KT), Knowledge Management (KM), and BIREME.
On June 5th, the EIH Space brought up the theme “Role of EIH in global knowledge management”, which focused on the Global Index Medicus (GIM), an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) launched in November 2019, in context of the Global Library Group (GLG), which has the support of BIREME, and which brings together on a single platform the world literature in the areas of biomedicine and public health produced by low- and middle- income countries. Its main objective is to increase the visibility and use of this important set of resources.
Ian Roberts, WHO Knowledge Library and Information Networks Coordinator, opened the session, noting that the Global Library Group and the Digital Information Network are accelerating to meet the 2020-2025 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) strategy and achieving billions of people (“reaching out to billions” in his words). One of the products developed is the GIM, which gathers material compiled and aggregated by the WHO Regional Office Libraries and which, since its launch, seeks to accelerate the transition to open access and remove other financial barriers, expand access to digital content and resources and connect via Internet, as well as greater interaction with users through communication technologies and social networks, which will allow assessing the impact of the platform in each country. In this way, it is not only possible to provide global visibility to scientific information produced by low- and middle-income countries, but also to use this information for decision making in public policies in these same regions, boosting compliance with the SDGs.
Next, Eliane Santos, Regional Advisor of Knowledge Management and Networks (KM), spoke about PAHO’s participation in GLG and its importance for the Americas in the context of GIM, starting with a summary of the Information and Knowledge Management initiatives in the Region. She mentioned the pioneering initiative of the Health Sciences Latin American Literature database (LILACS) established 35 years ago, SciELO Public Health, the Virtual Health Library and its network of information sources, the Virtual Campus for Public Health, and networks such as RELACSIS, HIFA (Health Information for All), and, finally, information access networks such as GIFT (Global Information Full Text) and HINARI (Access to Research in Health Program), for which KM provides training activities, and the PAHO Institutional Repository (PAHO IRIS). The PAHO-IRIS repository is also integrated into WHO-IRIS, the WHO Institutional Repository. The KM Technical Unit, in addition, coordinates and conducts joint activities with the K-Centers, Knowledge Management units in PAHO Offices and Centers in the countries.
In this sense, KM’s work in favor of the development and improvement of GIM also contributes to achieving SDGs 16 and 17, as it contributes to innovation, solidarity work and collaboration networks with developing countries.
Diego Gonzalez, director of BIREME, highlighted “that the Center, with its mission of democratizing information, knowledge and scientific evidence for decision-making, in its 53 years of existence, has crossed the borders of the Americas region to work globally, always very close to the WHO, and mentioned projects like ePORTUGUESe, the work with Spain, Portugal and other countries. ” He expressed the importance of resuming collaboration on the Global Index Medicus, which took place at a meeting held in November 2016 with libraries at a global level, coordinated by Ian Roberts, where BIREME took the lead. The development of GIM, which is a confirmation of the importance of the Center’s products and services, such as the VHL, LILACS and DeCS, provides visibility to the Region’s scientific output.
Renato Murasaki (Methodologies and Information Technologies Manager at BIREME), who led the development of GIM’s technological platform, pointed out that the initiative is “more than the sum of its parts”. In other words, the Global Index Medicus is not simply the collection of data provided by representatives of each WHO region: AFRO, EMRO, SEARO, WPRO and AMRO. More than that, it is about organizing and amplifying the availability, visibility, use and impact of health information published by countries in each region, providing open access to scientific and technical health content to democratize its use, developing and improving capacities in scholarly communication, and using this information to generate indicators for analysis, evaluation, and guide research and policy making in public health.
Murasaki described how GIM governance is carried out – through an Advisory Committee and a Technical Committee, which establish criteria and verification frameworks, back-evaluate the information collected and prepare semiannual work plans. It should also be noted that the GIM data feed the WHO COVID-19 database, updated daily and widely accessed since the beginning of the pandemic.
It is known that the scientific output of developing countries is hardly present in renowned international indexes such as MEDLINE or the Web of Science. In this way, GIM seeks to fill this gap by making visible and accessible globally the scientific literature produced in low- and middle-income countries, which ends up encouraging decision-making and policy making in these regions.
Finally, Dr. Sebastián García, EIH Director, acknowledged all participants, highlighted the presentations made and the presence of WHO at the event and noted that “now, more than ever, we are seeing the important role of GIM, when the demand for information, evidence and the need not only for quick publication, but also to have it in a format accessible to professionals, decision makers and the general public. We need to fight the infodemia and we are all involved in trying to resolve it. To do this, we have to take into account all the work in handling the information that allows us to move forward in a more orderly manner. In addition, I urge everyone to better understand these environments and the opportunities they offer us in the search for information and scientific evidence, and to make the best use of the tools available to all”.
As Ian Roberts pointed out, on GIM’s launch, “the inspiration for the Global Index Medicus platform came from an innovative initiative that is more than 20 years old: The Virtual Health Library”. It is true that good ideas yield worthwhile consequences