On August 30, 2022, in a hybrid event in person at the Central Library of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, in La Paz, Bolivia and online, the Bolivian National VHL was launched.
The event was attended by officials from the Ministry of Health and Sports, such as the Director of Health Services, Igor Pardo, and officials from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés de La Paz, Vice Chancellor, Maria Eugenia García, and the academic secretary, Boris Quevedo Calderón; on behalf of PAHO/WHO Bolivia, Alfonso Tenório. For BIREME, virtually, the Director of the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (EIH/PAHO/WHO) and Interim Director of BIREME/PAHO/WHO, Sebastián García, and the manager of Cooperative Services and Information Sources Production, Veronica Abdala; the National Coordinator of the VHL based at UMSA, Marilyn Sánchez; and the academic and administrative staff of UMSA, among others.
The effort to develop a National VHL as an umbrella that integrates the thematic initiatives of the VHL developed in the country, is in line with the framework of Supreme Decree nº 26,553, of March 19, 2002, in its second article, incorporates as state policy and a priority of national interest, that is, the use and exploitation of new information and communication technologies as means of acquiring and generating knowledge that contribute to the Bolivian strategy of reducing poverty and inserting Bolivia into the new information society. As a result, work was carried out on the development of the Bolivian Virtual Health Library (BVS Bolivia).
At the launching ceremony, the academic secretary of UMSA, Boris Quevedo Calderón, commented that with the VHL “it is possible to integrate with the world in general, particularly with Latin America, Central America, part of Europe, Africa, etc”. and that “The library, whether virtual or face-to-face, is the heart of any academic model, library management is the blood that runs in the veins of any academic policy that can be separated from the model that aims to improve academic and investigative management, and that of university innovation”.
For Alfonso Tenorio, responsible for the Representation of the PAHO/WHO Office in Bolivia, “libraries have a definitive and fundamental role in the training of professionals and for the benefit of the population in general”.
In his speech, Sebastián sent greetings to all participants from PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne, who is aware of events such as this, that attach great importance to the celebration of these launches that manifest the importance of access to information in the fight for better health and well-being of our populations.
Sebastián highlighted the “role that virtual libraries play, precisely so that more people can have access to evidence, knowledge and use of information for making informed decisions, which is part of the role we play at PAHO in this celebration of the health sector’s digital transformation and where, without a doubt, access to information also plays a central role.”
The General Director of Health Services Networks of the Ministry of Health and Sports, Igor Pardo Zapata, comments that “they have the legal support of two ministerial resolutions that approve the VHL in Public Health and Thematics of Bolivia and ratify, on behalf of the Ministry, the commitment to continue to support this initiative and strengthen ties with the university and other institutions.”
Verónica Abdala presented the VHL Model and the Technical Cooperation Work with LA&C countries and linked the launch event to BIREME’s mission that “access to information and knowledge in a timely manner can really change and qualify decisions in health and contribute to the promotion of better health for the entire population”.
Marilin Sanchez, in turn, presented the history of the work carried out in Bolivia since 2005 with the creation of the Public Health VHL and went through the National VHL portal, presenting the sections that were structured, in addition to demonstrating how to search for information in the databases of VHL.
Maria Eugenia Garcia Moreno, Vice-Chancellor of the UMSA, in her final remarks, comments on the importance of virtuality in times of a pandemic, for access to health information, where this type of initiative such as the Bolivian National VHL is fundamental to bring information to everyone and especially decision makers.
The Development of Bolivia’s National VHL
As of 2019, on the initiative of the Information and Knowledge Management Center – Universidad Mayor de San Andrés Central Library, which is the coordinator of the VHL, and the Documentation Center of the Ministry of Health and Sports of Bolivia, in collaboration with BIREME and PAHO, the reorganization of the Bolivian Network is promoted to reactivate the development of the VHL in the country and the creation of the National VHL.
Through a technical cooperation action plan, the BIREME team has been working with the Bolivian team in the development of the VHL from the restructuring of the portal, the information architecture, the graphic design, and going further to strengthening the Bolivian collaboration network, developing capacities, holding technical meetings and training, updating databases for registration, and expanding the visibility of the country’s scientific and technical production, in addition to methodological support for the use of methodologies and technical support for managing systems and hosting the portal and its information sources.
The Bolivia VHL is available at https://bolivia.bvsalud.org/ (in Spanish) and it is a network for the exchange of knowledge and management of information and scientific evidence in health, established through cooperation between institutions and health professionals. It is a site composed of information sources on health sciences to meet the technical-scientific information needs of professionals and students in the area. The cooperative network includes ministries, secretariats, hospitals, institutes, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, public and private universities, professional associations, scientific societies, and institutions linked to health work.
Pan American Health Organization. Bolivia launches the Virtual Health Library and becomes part of the network of specialized libraries in the region and the world. August 31, 2022. Available at (in Spanish): https://www.paho.org/es/noticias/31-8-2022-bolivia-lanza-biblioteca-virtual-salud-pasa-ser-parte-red-bibliotecas