The idea of creating a referential database of health legislation dates back to 1987, when the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Health Sciences Information (BIREME/PAHO/WHO), in coordination with the Health Systems and Services Unit (HSS) of PAHO/WHO, published the regional thematic database – LEYES – operated in a network coordinated by HSS.
At present, the LEYES database is no longer updated, but it plays a role as a historical record with bibliographic references of basic health legislation in more than thirty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, in some cases with a link to the full text of the document and includes norms since 1978.
From 2003 to date, there have been many stages of development, in which the health legislation databases evolved and the leadership institutions changed many times, until reaching the current LEGISALUD format, as presented by Renato Murasaki, Manager of Information Methodologies and Technologies at BIREME.
As a result, on May 20, 2021 the new version of the LEGISALUD platform of the Argentine Republic was officially launched, a database that stores legislative information specialized in health, at the initiative of the Ministry of Health of the Nation, with the institutional support from PAHO/WHO and with the technological assistance of BIREME/PAHO/WHO, based on the methodology of the Virtual Health Library.
The launch ceremony agenda was attended by authorities from the Ministry of Health, the Office of PAHO/WHO Argentina and with more than 110 participants from Argentina and other countries. Opening the event, Arnaldo Medina, Secretary of Health Quality, of the Ministry of Health of the Nation, representing Minister Carla Vizzotti, highlighted that “regulatory aspects are of fundamental importance for the management of any health system and construction of the health policies, as well as the daily decisions of all health professionals that are framed within a regulated context, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic”, which can be consulted in the new health legislation portal. Medina also recognized the regional context of the initiative and acknowledged PAHO/WHO for the institutional and technological support.
Next, Pier Paolo Balladelli, interim Representative of PAHO/WHO in Argentina, told the history of health legislation databases from the 1970s, stemming from a decision of the PAHO governing bodies, to the developments that led to the creation of the health legislation portal and – importantly – the inclusion of the extensive legislation specifically formulated on Covid-19 from mid-2020 to the present. Balladelli also highlighted the right to health in a broader framework of human rights, with the Determinants of health and the 2030 Agenda in which all countries have an important role in allowing their populations to have the means to enjoy good health and life conditions. The a.i. PAHO Representative made an important recognition of BIREME’s role in this project, on updating the LEGISALUD technological platform, which allowed for the adoption of methodologies to manage and publish health legislation. “BIREME, through the Virtual Health Library, has made a very important contribution” said Balladelli, thanking the Ministry of Health of the Nation, “for having taken seriously the task of developing this tool, sponsoring it with its commitment and its teams’ specific actions”.
The Director of BIREME, Diego González, expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the Center has contributed to this project, “which reaffirms our commitment as a specialized center of PAHO/WHO, and part of the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health, coordinated by Sebastián García – who sends a special greeting to colleagues in Argentina for having achieved this milestone – and that is part of our mission to democratize knowledge and evidence for decision-making in health and always offering modern platforms that facilitate the access to information”. González also stressed that this project is within the framework of technical cooperation with the countries of the Region, working with our counterparts, such as the National Ministry of Health, always through the PAHO/WHO Office of the country. Concluding his speech, the Director of BIREME greeted the Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, the Acting Representative, Pier Paolo Balladelli, and all those present saying that, today, a modern platform of health legislation is inaugurated for the benefit of all and that the challenge that is now presented will be to keep it up-to-date “and for that, you can count on BIREME’s support.”
Next, Renato Murasaki spoke about the historical evolution of databases in health legislation, beginning in 1987, when the LEYES database was created under the leadership of Mónica Bolis, at the initiative of the Health Systems and Services Unit of the PAHO Headquarters (HSS) with the support of BIREME. In 2003, Renato coordinated the establishment of a new technological and methodological platform, called TC-Legis (later called LEGISALUD), developed in the context of a Technical Cooperation Term with the Brazilian government, whose scope was not only in the country, but also in the Region, with the support of the PAHO Offices.
Murasaki highlighted the importance of regulatory frameworks, for example in the field of non-communicable diseases, and this translates into the use of LEGISALUD for the REGULA program, in coordination with the Legal (LEG) department and the department of Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health (NMH) of PAHO/WHO Headquarters, to systematize regional legislation related to risk factors on tobacco, alcohol, healthy eating and other issues, where regulatory measures play a strategic role to develop services and health systems and to meet health goals. For this reason, having a database on health legislation is essential for the formulation of public policies.
When covering the timeline of health legislation databases, Murasaki made a due recognition to teams, leaders, and institutions that worked, each during their own time and with their respective contribution, to provide access to regulatory frameworks in health.
It is important to highlight that Argentina, since 2007, has promoted the sustainability of LEGISALUD and has also played a leadership role at the regional level, promoting the development of neighboring countries such as Paraguay and Uruguay to advance their own platforms.
In 2016, BIREME incorporated health legislation into the referential database management process, with access to the full text. In 2018, the Secretary of Health of the state of São Paulo migrated to this platform and Paraguay began to test this methodology. Finally, in 2020-2021, BIREME enters the technical cooperation project with PAHO/WHO Argentina and the Ministry of Health of the Nation to reformulate the LEGISALUD Argentina platform. Murasaki concludes his presentation by celebrating the resilience, dedication, and commitment of the teams in Argentina that, since 2007, have contributed to making the launch of this new version of the platform a reality, with the functionalities that will allow everyone to access health legislation in general and on Covid-19 in Argentina, for the benefit of the health of its population.
Oscar Garay also participated, on behalf of LEGISALUD, presenting in detail the components of the platform of products and services, which includes the Legisalud database, the Bulletin, a Federal Atlas, a dictionary of terms, a Manual for health teams on patient’s rights, and more than 2,000 regulations regarding Covid-19 in the country. According to Garay, this basis is part of the normative framework of the human right to information, implicit in the Argentine Constitution. This right strengthens institutions, opens up the government, and promotes citizen participation.
Next, Oscar Baggini, from the National Directorate of Quality in Health Services and Sanitary Regulation – Ministry of Health of the Nation, reported the configuration of the database that allowed for managing the metadata and their respective full texts and annexes, besides interoperating with other platforms, including the possibility of developing value-added services. He explained that the platform is also accessible and responsive from mobile devices. Baggini demonstrated as well how the database search tool works and how filters are used.
Javier Uribe, Coordinator of the Health Systems and Services Unit of PAHO/WHO in Argentina, spoke about the implications of this launch for the Health Systems of Argentina. In the framework of Universal Health, health is found as a right of all and one of its pillars is the legal aspect of health. At this time, in particular, it was crucial and dynamic to have the set of legal regulations in the provincial and federal context on Covid-19 available to professionals and health authorities.
The National Director of Quality in Health Services and Sanitary Regulation, Claudio Ortiz, ending the ceremony, thanked all the teams of PAHO/WHO Argentina, the Ministry of Health of the Nation and BIREME involved in this project and stressed his satisfaction in inaugurating the LEGISALUD platform, which is much more than a database; it is a conception based on human rights, which brings together information and many products and services in health legislation, available to all. Even so, Ortiz said, “there are still challenges to face on this issue, which I am sure we will overcome, together, with the support of all.”
Pier Paolo Balladelli, Acting Representative of PAHO/WHO in Argentina, and Diego González, Director of BIREME, spoke words of mutual acknowledgement to all those present and to the teams that worked to make the launch of LEGISALUD a reality.
PAHO/WHO Argentina. Launch of the new LEGISALUD platform in Argentina. Available at: https://www.paho.org/es/noticias/20-5-2021-lanzamiento-nueva-plataforma-legisalud-argentina
Government of the Argentine Nation. The new technological platform Legisalud is presented: free and universal access to COVID-19 legislation in the context of the health emergency. Available at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/noticias/presentaron-la-nueva-plataforma-tecnologica-legisalud-acceso-libre-y-universal-la
Legisalud Argentina Portal. http://leg.msal.gov.ar/