Education And Debate

Health information for the developing world

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 08 October 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:939
  1. R Kale
  1. BMJ London WC1H 9JR.

    Doctors and other health professionals in developing countries are missing out on relevant information about health. A lot of the information they need is available in the developed countries, and those who have it are happy to share it with them. But transporting information, like food or medicines, from one part of the world to another is not an easy task nor is it the complete answer to the information drought. It is one thing to ferry books and journals from Europe to Africa and another to make relevant information available to the right person at the right time at an affordable cost.

    Gross inequalities exist in the availability of health information in the developing and the developed worlds. Paucity of relevant information is a chronic feature of health care in developing countries and in the formerly communist countries of eastern Europe. As a result many health professionals in these countries have gradually been lulled into believing that they can go about their job without new information.

    The position in the developed world is quite the reverse. Most doctors are deluged every week with so much information that they are virtually paralysed by its plethora. Too much irrelevant information is also unhelpful. Transferring all available information from the developed countries to the developing ones is obviously not to going to meet the health information needs of the developing world.

    “Getting information from the developed to the developing world” was the title of a conference held at BMA House, London, earlier this year. The meeting came about because the BMJ Publishing Group regularly receives requests for free subscriptions to its journals from doctors in the developing world. The group does provide journals free of charge, although it worries that this is probably a highly inefficient way of getting information to the …

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