Meeting in person in São Paulo under the coordination of BIREME, 61 members of the VHL Network from 19 countries in the Region provided suggestions and made commitments to strengthen Rede, renew its information management model and update it in accordance with the BIREME 2023-2025 Strategy, whose motto is to promote Information for Action in Health.
São Paulo, Brazil, November 16, 2023 (BIREME/PAHO/WHO) – Between November 13 and 16, the VHL Network – the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Health Information – gathered in person in São Paulo for a series of technical meetings among its coordinators, focal points, and BIREME teams. The activities were held as part of the celebrations for the 25th-anniversary of VHL, with 61 participants from 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing the national networks of VHL, the MEDCARIB network, the Nursing Network, and the Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicines (TCIM) Network of the Americas.
The main objective of the meetings was to discuss the network's biannual strategic planning, with proposals for the renewal of the VHL management information model. The expectation is to keep VHL aligned with the new "BIREME 2023-2025 Strategy – Information for Action in Health" and in tune with the current stage of digital transformation.
The first two days of the event (13 and 14) were dedicated to the VHL Model Renewal Workshop, coordinated by Verônica Abdala, Manager of Information Products and Services at BIREME, with the participation of 55 coordinators and focal points from the VHL Network in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the opening of the meeting, the BIREME 2023-2025 Strategy was presented by Director João Paulo Souza. His speech emphasized that it is imperative to consider the current health information needs in an expanded context of the well-being or illness processes, which recently began to incorporate the dimension of the so-called "digital determinants of health" among the conditions that may affect them. "We meet to review and update our operations according to the new needs driven by digital transformation in the information sector," explains the director.
With a strong impact on BIREME's core operations, the effects of digital determinants of health may vary according to the level of access and use that populations and individuals make of information, navigating through misinformation, hyper information, and infodemics. "This means that those digital determinants produce different outcomes among groups and populations, not only in terms of their access to health services and the quality of care they receive, but also in relation to individual and public health, well-being practices, behaviors and lifestyle," adds João Paulo Souza.
Renewal of the VHL Model – Information Management and Governance
Next, participants were presented to the main results of the VHL situational analysis conducted by BIREME throughout 2023, in a presentation coordinated by Verônica Abdala, PSI Manager, and Ana Cyntia Baraldi, Advisor for Partnerships and Special Projects. The diagnosis evaluated the VHL situation, including the strengths, opportunities and challenges as perceived from the perspective of the structural bodies, which are the institutions and personnel in health information management, the content and information sources, and users of products and services.
"Based on the diagnosis that we produced with the Network members, we divided this workshop participants into smaller working groups so that everyone could contribute with their suggestions for improvements on topics that we had identified as essential during the previous analysis stage," noted Verônica Abdala. The topics discussed were the essential functions of VHL, bibliographic control and governance of VHL, and user needs.
For Verônica Abdala, the meeting exceeded engagement expectations and was marked as a strong point in the Network trajectory, especially regarding VHL’s Governance. "We realized that sharing the diagnosis and promoting an opportunity for joint evaluation, in order to collectively find ways to improve the VHL model, means sharing responsibilities and agreeing on commitments for the sustainability and strengthening of the VHL Network."
To process the recommendations resulting from the meeting and develop the proposal for the new Strategic Action Plan for the 2024-2025 biennium, a working group was created with about 15 participants who attended the meeting. Among the main outcomes resulting from the meeting that will inform the renewal of VHL, the following stand out: (1) the commitment to promote good research and scientific communication practices based on the principles of Open Science, including open access and open data; (2) the automation of processes for interoperability between databases, data collection and retrieval on the portal, and document indexing; and (3) the simplification of governance structures, adapted to the maturity level of each VHL instance. The recommendations from the meeting will inform the finalization of BIREME's strategic planning for VHL in 2024-25.
Segment strategic meetings
Also, in the context of strategic planning for the next biennium, three technical meetings were held in parallel on November 15 and 16: VHL TCIM Americas, the development of VHL Caribbean with MEDCARIB, and the exploration of opportunities for innovation in the digital transformation of products and services developed in technical cooperation between INFOMED (Cuba) and BIREME.
About the VHL Network
VHL is an information management model based on collaborative and networked work, applied to the creation, organization, and dissemination of scientific and technical information in the health field, available online for user access through VHL portals. Since its creation in 1998, VHL seeks to contribute to expanding access to scientific and technical information in health and its applied use in the health sector – from clinical care to health promotion and policy and program management. Currently, the network features more than 60 instances in 30 countries, and is composed of institutions that collaborate and participate in the construction, development, operation, updating, and promotion of BIREME's information methodologies, products, and services.
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