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Library initiative links Third World doctors and researchers to journals

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2009 - Spring

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Just seven years ago, clinicians and scientists in the developing world could get hold of—on average—only two international medical journals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And in the poorest countries, fewer than half of the doctors and researchers could put their hands on a single journal.

Now, through a WHO program called HINARI, they have electronic access to 6,000. The program makes journals and databases available to health care professionals in 3,600 hospitals, medical schools and other institutions in 108 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Subscription rates range from nothing in the poorest countries to $1,000 annually per institution in more affluent countries.

Yale librarians including Kimberly Parker, M.I.L.S., have played crucial roles in developing HINARI. Parker headed the electronics collection for Yale’s library system when the project was conceived in 2001; researchers from resource-poor countries had told who officials that without access to biomedical information they could not be members of the international research community. Within months, several major publishers had agreed to donate access to their journals, and HINARI was launched in January 2002. Last spring Parker took over as program manager of HINARI in Geneva.

Yale librarians continue to contribute. When a researcher in Ecuador peruses a journal, or a gynecologist in Vietnam reads about screening for anemia, each depends upon the support of Yale librarian Daniel Dollar, M.L.S., and his staff, who make sure that links work and add journals and databases to the ever-expanding system. “They actually have access to more journals than we do,” said Dollar.

Because of HINARI, Parker said, more scientists “are contributing to the global conversation in important ways, often on topics the rest of us are ignoring.”

Senegalese urologist Mohamed Jalloh, M.D., depends on HINARI to search the medical literature and find such clinical information as drug dosages. Just three years out of residency, Jalloh says he has had 13 articles published. “It is very important for us to have access to good-quality peer-reviewed publications,” he said.