The development of a Virtual Health Library (VHL) Instance for the English Caribbean was the subject of a presentation by BIREME/PAHO/WHO, given by Marcia Barretto (ITI Coordinator) and Veronica Abdala (Manager of Information Sources), at the ACURIL 2020 Virtual Conference, on November 18th.
The proposal of this VHL instance is to integrate efforts and information resources, prioritizing to facilitate access to scientific and technical information for professionals, researchers, students and decision makers in health area in the Caribbean region.
The starting points for transforming the presented proposal are the MEDCARIB Network, which already exists and is active, and the experience of some Caribbean countries with the development of the VHL, in addition to other successful examples of regional initiatives such as the VHL Nursing and the VHL Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine Americas (VHL TCIM Americas). Although this proposal is not new and, in fact, the idea has been maturing for some time, ACURIL 2020 offered the opportunity to discuss the topic in an expanded forum and later, after approval, to advance in the definition of management governance, network coordination and flow of cooperation for the development of the Caribbean VHL.
The words of thanks from the coordinator of the MedCarib Network, Ayaana Alleyne Cumberbatch (librarian at the Library of Medical Sciences, University of West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago), sent to Marcia Barretto and Veronica Abdala reflect the enthusiasm and willingness to turn the Caribbean VHL into reality : “On behalf of the MedCarib network we would like to say a heartfelt thank you for your presentation at the ACURIL 2020 Virtual Conference. The vision for a Caribbean Virtual Health Library is one that has been long in the making and I believe I speak for all when I say that we are excited about doing our part to making this vision a reality. We look forward to discussing with you in greater detail how we can operationalize the CVHL.”.
Towards the Caribbean VHL
BIREME’s actions with the countries of the English Caribbean began in 1989 with the creation of the MedCarib database (database of bibliographic references of information on health sciences in the countries of the English Caribbean, using LILACS Methodology), with the coordination of Laxmi Mansingh (Head of the Library of Medicine, University of West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, at the time) and participation of 17 countries, forming the MedCarib Network. Ernesta Greenidge (Head of the Library of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, at the time), succeeds Laxmi in coordinating the Network and promotes in 2012 a strategic meeting with the countries of the English Caribbean, in the context of CRICS9/VHL6, with the priority of strengthening collaborative work for bibliographic control in the Caribbean region and revitalizing the MedCarib Network.
This action paid off: the MedCarib database is being updated regularly by the Network, it is available for access in various VHL portals and is the main source of information for the CARPHA Evidence Portal. However, on the other hand, the development of VHL Instances in the countries of the English Caribbean was unstable and with difficulties for the implementation of the dimensions that make up the VHL Model.
Nevertheless, the current context and conditions provide the opportunity for a more attractive approach to integrate the Network’s efforts in the English Caribbean region in a sustainable manner, avoiding dispersion, eliminating duplication of work, together but guaranteeing space and identity for each country.
The questions about the development, strengthening and participation of the Caribbean countries were raised by BIREME during the event, together with the Network, and will be discussed and detailed in an action plan for the development of the new Caribbean VHL.