BIREME/PAHO/WHO develops technical cooperation projects based on its biannual work program. This line of action is a priority in order to respond to the growing demands for the development of the VHL and its associated networks, as well as for operating the networks of sources and flows of scientific, technical and factual information in health.
The methodology developed by BIREME is oriented to the management of VHL projects by the entire network. This is aligned with PAHO’s technical cooperation strategy for the development of health in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, contributing to the development of institutional, local, national and regional policies and capacities for the publication, organization and equitable access to scientific information.
VHL – Virtual Health Library
The VHL (http://bvsalud.org/en) is the main Strategy and Model for technical cooperation on scientific and technical health information management in LA&C. It is promoted and coordinated by BIREME since 1998. It is a regional public good, built and operated by a network of institutions and professionals from 30 countries that work with production, intermediation and use of scientific and technical health information.
The key objectives of the VHL are:
- Creating, improving and disseminating scientific and technical information sources to attend the needs of governments, health systems, workers and researchers on publication, preservation and/or access to relevant information on health;
- Coordinating, executing and promoting bibliographic control, dissemination, evaluation and improvement of the scientific and technical literature published in the countries of the Region of LA&C; and
- Promoting and facilitating equitable access to information, so that health decisions are based on/informed by scientific knowledge (evidence).
The VHL Model
The application of the VHL Model reflects on the development of information sources and the building of web portals, also called VHL Instances, which can be regional, national, thematic or institutional. Currently, the VHL Model is applied to over 100 VHL Instances, which, in turn, make up the VHL Network, along with the libraries that cooperate with the development of the information sources that compose those Instances.
The VHL, in its library dimension, is expressed by a collection of information sources defined as any resource – databases, catalogues, Websites, books, journals, practice guides, open education resources, legislation, courses, events, practice communities, videos, experience reports, news, etc. – which can meet the users’ information needs.
The contents of the VHL are gathered and structured in different information sources, according to the nature and specific characteristics of each type of content which, in turn, are presented in the portals of the VHL Instances. This presentation follows an information architecture that is in accordance with the VHL Model standards and that facilitates interoperability among the systems, access to regional sources of information (e.g. LILACS), and accessibility to content on different devices.
LILACS – Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences
LILACS (http://lilacs.bvsalud.org/en) is the most relevant and comprehensive index on scientific and technical health literature published by the countries of LA&C. For over 31 years, LILACS has contributed to increase visibility, access and quality of the scientific output in health in the Region. LILACS emphasis is on public health publications and has as target audience students, researchers, health professionals and managers.
LILACS brings together over 780 thousand documents published in the Region of LA&C, indexes articles of 932 journals, theses, monographs and non-conventional literature. In fact, LILACS complements MEDLINE, which indexes approximately 90 Latin American journals. LILACS is cited in thousands of systematic revisions as a research source for primary studies in Latin America and offers contextualized evidence for the health priorities of LA&C.
LILACS contains primary studies such as clinical essays, cohort studies, case series, case reports and secondary studies such as clinical practice guides, systematic revisions, health economics assessments, sanitary technology assessments, and other types of content, all distributed in journal articles, theses and dissertations, non-conventional documents (gray literature) and monographs.
Of the total records in LILACS, over 380 thousand lead to a link with the full text of the articles, which corresponds to 48% of the LILACS records. If only records of the last 3 years are considered, 93% lead to the full text, reflecting a current criteria in which the journal, in order to be indexed in LILACS, must be published in open access.
LILACS has a collaboration network distributed in countries of LA&C, with over 900 cooperating centers, responsible for the bibliographic record and indexing documents on the database, applying LILACS Methodology and the Controlled Vocabulary of DeCS – Health Sciences Descriptors. Of these centers, over 500 have effectively contributed to LILACS. BIREME is in charge of the general coordination and there is a National Coordinating Center in each country. There is also a Coordinator for thematic areas, such as Nursing, Psychology and Dentistry. Since the end of 2012, LILACS is also powered by the automatic retrieval of metadata from electronic journals and direct loading of metadata from electronic journal editors.
DeCS – Health Sciences Descriptors
DeCS (http://decs.bvsalud.org/I) is a controlled vocabulary that maintains and periodically updates the terminology in health sciences in Spanish, Portuguese, English and French.
DeCS is available online in open access, especially for students, researchers, and health professionals, through a license of use that is granted upon demand, free of charge. It is the only vocabulary in the world which is updated annually for indexing scientific and technical health literature in Spanish and Portuguese. It includes the translation of the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH/NLM) in Portuguese and Spanish. It is an extensive thesaurus kept by BIREME and enriched with additional categories such as Public Health, Health Surveillance, Science and Health and Homeopathy. The translations of the MeSH/NLM in Portuguese and Spanish are integrated to the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS/NLM) of the United States. DeCS offers online services which facilitate the use of MeSH/DeCS for indexing content in sanitary information systems; it is a tool that allows users to search on MEDLINE, LILACS and other VHL information sources using descriptors in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. The Spanish and French translations rely on collaboration with the Biblioteca Central de la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Chile, the Biblioteca Nacional de Ciencias de la Salud (BCNS) del Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of Spain, and the CHU Hôpitaux de Rouen, France. The MeSH terms are translated to French by the Institut National de la Santé et Recherche Médicale (INSERM), France. The DeCS website receives approximately 300.000 visits per month.