The event celebrating 20 years of the Brazilian Ministry of Health’s Virtual Health Library (MS VHL) was broadcast online via Teams and on the DataSUS YouTube channel on August 31st. During the ceremony, the new MS VHL interface, the commemorative anniversary stamp that will be used in activities until August/22, and the Natural History of COVID-19 Window of Knowledge were launched.
The MS VHL is part of the collection of information sources of the Coordination for the Dissemination of Technical-Scientific Information in Health of the Ministry of Health’s General Coordination of Documentation and Information (CODINF/CGDI/SAA/SEE/MS), and is part of the network of Virtual Health Libraries (VHL Network), made up of institutions and professionals who participate in the VHL’s collective construction, regionally coordinated by BIREME/PAHO/WHO.
To comment a little about the history of the MS VHL, the ceremony was attended by distinguished guests, some of whom idealized the health information and knowledge management model – the VHL for two decades, and others who are important for its continuity and successes today. All participants had and/or have a key role in the construction of the VHL Model for the democratization of access to health information. The event was inaugurated by Luiz Tadeu Vilela Blumm, Undersecretary for Administrative Affairs at the Ministry of Health (SAA/SEE/MS), who highlighted “access to quality health information is a citizen’s right guaranteed by the Ministry of Health. We have gathered to celebrate a tool that for 20 years has been contributing to the consolidation of this right. The mission of the MS VHL is to democratize access to health information, promoting the widespread dissemination of this knowledge. Today, more than ever, we understand information as an important form of disease prevention and health promotion. Information literally saves lives.”
For the General Coordinator of Documentation and Information (CGDI/SAA/SE/MS), Soraya Zacarias, “it is an honor to have all our partners with us on this long journey. Nobody does anything alone and if we are here today, gathered in celebration, it is because many people have committed their talents, their time, their work to achieve our common goal: bringing health information to everyone”. Soraya added: “in these times of infodemia, the dangers of misinformation and fake news, the VHL is a beacon, a stronghold of secure and verified information, based on the best and most current evidence”.
Present at the event, Márcia Rollemberg, mentor and Coordinator of CGDI/SAA/SE/MS, who worked for 17 years in coordination, and played a key role in the creation and implementation of the MS VHL, the first institutional VHL in Brazil, recalled that “the MS VHL is one of the great investments the Ministry has made, a perennial investment. The management of knowledge and information, reaching everyone, not only the health professional, but reaching the user, all professionals, evidence, information, so that there can be a decision based on information and based on in science”, throughout her speech, Márcia also highlighted the participation of the VHL Network, BIREME/PAHO/WHO, and Fiocruz in consolidating the project and ended by thanking all the people and teams that were or are involved in the strengthening of the MS VHL.
Abel Packer, Director of the SciELO-FAPESP Program, and Director of BIREME at the time of the creation of the MS VHL, was the creator of the VHL model as an operational framework for social networks, content networks, and information networks with the rationales of library and network and common methodologies for democratizing information and knowledge. Abel expressed joy in meeting the members of BIREME and the Ministry of Health who were involved in the development of the MS VHL, congratulating the managers of the Ministry for their financial support and encouragement for the renewal of the VHL. “The success and resilience of the VHL are centered on the classic function of the library, which brings together content with quality control to democratically serve its users. The library is the cultural mechanism created as an extension of our mind, our memory, which since ancient times has made use of new technologies and means to register, accumulate, preserve, and communicate knowledge. The library has always acted in the present, towards the future.”
Eliane Santos, regional advisor on Knowledge and Networks Management at PAHO/WHO Headquarters in Washington DC, USA, and head of the MS VHL at the time of its creation, recalled the first moments of this library: “the great asset of this process was believing in the VHL as a public policy; at that time our efforts to always work in the context of positioning the MS VHL in the national health education plan, in the national health conferences, in the CONASEMS. It has always been based on the SUS precepts, on the precepts of access, universalization, of having this equitable aspect of taking information to more people”.
Present at the ceremony, the Director of BIREME/PAHO/WHO, Diego Gonzalez, stated that “there is a very close work of the entire BIREME team so that today we can be celebrating 20 years of the MS VHL. I feel very proud to have continued this project that started 23 years ago, and that we have a challenge to continue developing new technologies, new products for this VHL. I believe that wonderful work is being developed at the MS VHL, in coordination with the CGDI”.
The roundtable also included the Coordinator of Dissemination of Technical-Scientific Information in Health (CODINF/CGDI/SAA/SE/MS), Shirlei Rodrigues, who highlighted the importance of the MS VHL for the Unified Health System. “O SUS has a decentralized management, and therefore needs to disseminate health information in a country with continental dimensions. Despite the accessibility barriers we encountered, through this partnership with BIREME, we undertook a Herculean effort to reach our population more and more, bringing health information to them.” Shirlei finished by stating, “celebrating 20 years in a trajectory of evolution, where we started with 15 thousand hits per month and currently we have more than 700 thousand hits a month on the MS VHL is very gratifying and gives us encouragement to continue evolving and fulfilling our role as health information managers to assist in the process of full citizenship.”
Sandra Teixeira, librarian responsible for the MS VHL (MS VHL/CODINF/CGDI/SAA/SE/MS), made a detailed presentation on the content of the MS VHL and the evolution of the layout over the years. The Ministry of Health, through its Virtual Health Library, has always sought to bring health information not only to researchers, professionals, and students, but also to the general population, through products such as Health Tips, Glossary of Terms, and Thematic Areas, among others. The successive methodological and technological improvements carried out with the support of BIREME over time were intended to make browsing on the MS VHL website more user-friendly, intuitive, and responsive to various devices, as well as equipped with assistive technology for access by people with disabilities (W3C) according to international standards. Sandra also showed the access statistics to the MS VHL, which show more than 6 million views in 2020, an increase of 85% compared to 2019 data, and 480% compared to 2018.
Next, Veronica Abdala spoke about her satisfaction in celebrating 20 years of the MS VHL, and what it meant to apply the VHL Model in the virtual world, which acquired a visionary and extremely innovative character. “A lot of evolution came along this path and the Ministry of Health has always been together with BIREME in this process of appropriation of the information and knowledge management model and developing the culture of using scientific knowledge in decision-making; there were many challenges.” Next, Veronica spoke about the Natural History of COVID-19 Window of Knowledge, an information source in the VHL, which was born from the need to understand the natural history of the disease, as an important prerequisite for planning new studies. The Window of Knowledge is a product of technical cooperation between BIREME and the Ministry of Health’s Department of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Strategic Health Inputs (SCTIE/MS), through the Department of Science and Technology (DECIT) and the details of its release are reported in an article of this Bulletin.
The SAA & Você Magazine, internal newsletter of the Secretariat for Administrative Affairs of the Executive Secretariat of the Ministry of Health, published a special issue on the 20th anniversary of the MS VHL. Access here.
About the MS VHL
In the academic, scientific, and professional health areas, VHL is synonymous with a safe and reliable source of information, a place where researchers, professionals, and managers seek information and scientific and technical evidence for decision-making in health.
The MS VHL provides public access to the entire Ministry of Health collection, including books, health campaigns, periodicals, scientific articles, and multimedia materials. It also offers access to other scientific databases, national and international, including institutional databases with the scientific and technical production of federal institutions of the Unified Health System (SUS). In addition, it develops a series of informational products and services aimed at researchers, professors, students, health professionals and managers, and citizens in general.