BIREME Bulletin n° 30

March is a celebration month for BIREME: 52 years of the Center and 21 years of the VHL

March is a celebratio month for the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information BIREME: 52 years of the Center on the 3rd, and on the 27th, 21 years of the Virtual Health Library (VHL), the main technical cooperation strategy. These are important dates and celebrations, as they strengthen the institutionality of the Center, which acts regionally with all Latin America and the Caribbean countries.

The objective of contributing to the development of health in the countries of the Region through the democratization of access, publication and use of scientific information, knowledge and evidence is effectively aligned to the Strategic Planning and Technical Cooperation Priorities if the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) with the countries, as well as with the recommendations and contributions of its governance committees, institutional supporters, users, collaborators and different actors.

The 52nd year of BIREME already marks important results achieved and the strengthening of its presence in the Region by executing the activities of its Biennial Work Plan (BWP) 2018-2019, composed of four main Initiatives, 36 Products and Services and 216 Activities and Tasks. The BWP formalizes the technical cooperation program and the administrative priorities of the Center, which is integrated to the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (EIH), currently led on interim by Dr. Jacobo Finkelman. The Department of EIH is connected to Office of the PAHO/WHO Assistant Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva.

Below are some of the achievements and lines of action from the first year of the 2018-2019 biennial which reinforce the institutionality of BIREME as a PAHO/WHO Specialized Center in the exercise of its mission as it celebrates 52 years of existence supporting and strengthening health information systems of the countries of the Region:

  1. The 7th Regional Coordination Meeting of the Virtual Health Library and the 10th Edition of the Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information (VHL7/CRICS10), from December 4 to 6, 2018, with 560 participants, 32 countries and the adoption of the SĂŁo Paulo Declarations in favor of the Democratization of Scientific Knowledge for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Objectives;
  2. The VII Session of BIREME’s Advising Committee (AC), on November 7 and 8, 2018 and the IV Session of the Scientific Committee, on December 3, 2018, with the presence of PAHO/WHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, leaving recommendations for the sustainability, institutionality and technical cooperation of the Center;
  3. Technical cooperation for five key countries to strengthen their capacities in management and access to scientific health information: Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua and Paraguay;
  4. Conclusion of the project of extension of the DeCS/MeSH for the topics of Equity, Access and Universal Coverage in Health and Digital Health and automatic identification of DeCS/MeSH terms in abstracts of documents available in the VHL;
  5. Launching of new products and services: (a) My VHL App for the selective dissemination of information, (b) e-BlueInfo App with collections of content for professionals in primary health care in Brazil and Peru, (c) New mechanisms for interoperability developed for the Global Index Medicus and regular updating of the index, (d) Development of the beta version for visualization of infometric indicators for scientific and technical production available on LILACS and new visualizations of informetric indicators for Human Resources in Health, (e) Launching of the Regional Portal of the VHL Network, giving visibility to the contribution of each country to the VHL, with a regular training program for bibliographic control, (f) New design (Template) and methodology for Knowledge Showcases available and applied to Showcases such as ASSA 2030, Leprosy World Day, TB World Day, Water and Sanitation, etc.;
  6. Methodology of Second Formative Opinion (SFO) updated.

According to the Director of the Center, Dr. Diego González, “when we speak of 52 years of work experience of an institution, it is necessary to think of strength and evolution, which, in the case of BIREME, would not have been possible without the permanent contribution of our institutional partners, who, along with the Center’s staff, have allowed for the visibility of scientific output in health in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

bvs21_equipe“Networking” stated Dr. González, “is the only way in which the results mentioned above could have been achieved, as well as projecting a future of improvement in our information tools, always following technological advances so that we may contribute to the thematic priorities of the Center: Primary Health Care and the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2030”. ASSA 2030 links, through objectives 6 and 7, health, education and environment, and these objectives are overlaid on BIREME’s objectives:

Objective 6: Strengthen information systems for health and support the formulation of policies and decision-making based on evidence.

Objective 7: Develop capacities for the generation, transfer and use of evidence and knowledge in health, promoting research, innovation and use of technology.

About the 21 years of the VHL

The Virtual Health Library celebrates in 2019 its 21 years of uninterrupted activity as a network of information management and exchange of knowledge and scientific evidence in health, which is established through cooperation among institutions and professionals in the production, intermediation and use of health information sources, in universal open access on the Web, according to the definition in the VHL Guide.

The VHL Network is composed of institutions, management, research and educational institutions and health services organizations, both public and private, as well as professionals that act as producers, intermediaries and users of the information. In Latin America and the Caribbean, over 2.000 cooperating institutions and 1.000 cooperating libraries network to bring together information which is disseminated in more than 100 national, regional, thematic and institutional VHL instances in 30 countries.

The 35 databases that integrate the Regional Portal of the VHL hold over 28 million records, of which 11 million possess a link to the full text.

It is not possible to talk about the VHL without mentioning the main source of referential information – the Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences (LILACS) and the controlled vocabulary Descriptors in Health Sciences (DeCS), used to index through descriptors the literature included in the LILACS database. Actually, LILACS precedes the VHL, as it was created 33 years ago.

The 7th Coordination Meeting of the VHL[1] (VHL7), which took place before the 10th edition of the Regional Congress on Health Sciences Information (CRICS10), was an opportunity for discussing the future of the VHL Network in the Region. Below there are the main challenges established for the VHL Network:

  • Attain maximum bibliographic control of Latin American literature in order to generate trustworthy and useful indicators for helping processes of defining agendas of priorities and public health policies;
  • Develop innovative products and services oriented to users with difficulty in access and that have added value;
  • Develop products and services oriented to other public besides the health sector, promoting alliances with other sectors;
  • Promoting the culture of access and use of scientific evidence and knowledge, especially in management and formulation of policies;
  • Topics such as data science, artificial intelligence and information society must be incorporated to our strategic vision in developing capacities and incorporating professionals to the teams with experience in these topics.

[1]Séptima Reunión de Coordinación de la BVS. Disponible en


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