Breaking barriers in access to health information

Health workers in Arawa, Bougainville, now have increased ability to access latest health information, virtually free of charge.

This follows a five-day course on HINARI Access to Research in Health Programme conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month.

Since 2016, WHO has brought together over 150 health professionals from 10 provinces of Papua New Guinea under a series of HINARI workshops, with Arawa being the latest.

“We can now access current or up-to-date information instead of relying on the outdated textbooks that we have,” says Myrtle Sammy, a workshop participant and tutor at Arawa School of Nursing. She thanked WHO for bringing the training to them.

WHO Country Representative, Dr Luo Dapeng, said the quest for knowledge and information is key to better health, and can be life-saving.

But, he adds, for low income countries, especially in remote places, the latest health and medical information is not easy to come by. Dr Luo said this usually comes at a huge cost: “A cost that derails learning and hinders development.”

“Subscriptions to printed journals are typically very expensive. This means that people - including researchers, scientists and students - often cannot access information,” he said.

That’s why WHO together with major publishers established HINARI - an online system that provides free or very low cost access to thousands of medical and scientific books and journals in low and middle income countries.

This innovative system connects hospitals, universities and research institutes with the most up-to-date scientific and medical literature. Thus distance and budget are no longer barriers to information that can save lives.

Today, using HINARI, registered health workers may be able to access up to fourteen thousand (14000) e-journals and thirty-three thousand (33000) online books in biomedical and related social sciences at very low to no cost.

To date, WHO has conducted HINARI trainings in Mt. Hagen, Goroka, Chimbu, Madang and Bougainville, registering over 20 new institutions to access HINARI, free of charge.

In Arawa, participants included staff and students from Arawa School of Nursing and health workers from Central Bougainville.

Meanwhile, four health institutions in Arawa have been registered to access HINARI. They are Arawa School of Nursing, Arawa Hospital, Bougainville Healthy Community Programme and Panguna Health Centre. Last year, WHO presented the Arawa School of Nursing and Arawa Hospital with ICT equipment to support their access to HINARI.

Ms Sammy, speaking on behalf of the participants, said the trainings are very useful for health workers and nursing students: “We now have the most updated nursing textbooks free of charge online. This is something new to us and we are very excited about it.” She thanked WHO for giving them this opportunity.

Technical support for the HINARI rollout in PNG is supported by WHO Western Pacific Regional Office. The next HINARI training is scheduled for Kimbe, West New Britain, in October 2017.