BIREME Bulletin n° 42

March/2020: BIREME turns 53 years

BIREME completes 53 years of uninterrupted activity as a Specialized Center of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). Its presence in the Region continues to be strengthened through the execution of its Biannual Work Plan 2020-2021 (PTB 20-21). Even in the current contingency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan continues to be implemented by supporting local health authorities with administrative and technical cooperation actions.

In this sense and in the context of its mission to democratize information, knowledge, and evidence for decision-making in health, BIREME/PAHO/WHO developed the Windows of Knowledge[1] on the infection caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which seeks to provide quality and updated information to health professionals and to the general public about the outbreak of the disease.

The PTB 20-21 operationalizes the Center’s technical cooperation program and management priorities, which is integrated into the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health (EIH), under the direction of Dr. Sebastián Garcia Saisó. The EIH Department is hierarchically linked to the Organization’s Deputy Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr.

Between the main focuses of BIREME’s activities, a priority is the constant improvement of its information and scientific communication products and services, like the Virtual Health Library (VHL), the LILACS index (Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature), and DeCS (Descriptors in Health Sciences), as well as the alignment with the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2030 (SHAA2030) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

Among BIREME’s products and services, we can highlight the Global Index Medicus (GIM), coordinated by the WHO, PAHO Headquarters and Regional Offices, the VHL Network in each country, with emphasis on the thematic instances like Nursing and Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine (TCIM), the MedCarib/CARPHA for the English Caribbean and a resumption of activities in the ePORTUGUÊSE and EVIPNet Networks.

Brochure with BIREME’s main products and services

Relevant developments include MyVHL, eBlueInfo, Windows of Knowledge, Evidence Maps, Evidence-informed Policies, International Database of GRADE Guidelines (BIGG), VHL Infobutton, Regional Base of Health Technology Assessment Reports of the Americas, Database of Health Legislation, Open Educational Resources and on-site and online courses in scientific communication and access and use of health information.

And still, BIREME developed information products that focus on the Organization’s transversal themes – Equity, Gender, Ethnicity, and Human Rights. 118 new Descriptors in Health Sciences were created for indexing, retrieving and using scientific information and evidence on the transversal axes. In addition, Windows of Knowledge on these themes were developed with the objective of giving visibility and access to reference documents and other information resources on each of the topics.

By virtue of its statute, BIREME has Governance Committees, which perform advisory duties to the Director of PAHO/WHO, regarding the Center’s programmatic, managerial, and technical cooperative functions. The Advisory and Scientific Committees met at BIREME in October[2] and November[3] 2019, respectively, when they made relevant recommendations regarding the Center’s institutionality, management, sustainability, and technical cooperation. The 2020 meetings are scheduled to take place in the second half of the year.

As such, for 53 years, BIREME has been organizing, facilitating and promoting access to scientific and technical knowledge through its information products and services and through collaborative work and in network with health institutions in Latin American and Caribbean countries, including health ministries, libraries, research and healthcare institutions, PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centers and numerous institutional actors also from outside the Region.

According to Diego González, director of BIREME, after 53 years of continuous work, BIREME is now recognized for its capacity to: (1) Work with networs of health institutions and professionals, and its capillarity in Latin America and the Caribbean; (2) Increase the visibility of scientific output of LA&C; (3) Facilitate information retrieval through DeCS, a controlled and structured vocabulary using health terms in four languages and following international standards; (4) Generate open source methodologies and technologies; (5) Develop local capacities for access, production, and management of information; and (6) Contribute to project development at global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.

It is worth noting the words offered by the Director of PAHO/WHO, Carissa Etienne, at the Fourth Session of the Scientific Committee of BIREME on December 3, 2018 and that are still valir “…BIREME is prepared to play a relevant role in supporting innovations and digital health, the use of information and knowledge, the development of evidence-based policies and decisions in health and scientific research to reach the goals of sustainable development and universal health.”

According to Sebastian García, Director of EIH, “it is a pride to have in the team that I currently manage a Center of such relevance as BIREME. In the last 53 years, the Center has actively and decisively contributed to making scientific and technical information accessible to researchers and decision-makers in health. This work makes BIREME a necessary reference for the strengthening and development of the Region and it is my aspiration that it continues its growth and positioning as a specialized center of our Organization.


[1] The Window of Knowledge on COVID-19 is updated periodically and is available in Portuguese (, Spanish ( and English (

[2]  Advisory Committee of BIREME: Eighth Session is held in 2019. BIREME Bulletin n° 37. Available at

[3] Fifth Session of the Scientific Committee takes place at BIREME. BIREME Bulletin n° 38. Available at


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