SatelLife: getting relevant information to the developing worldBMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1606 (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1606
- Trish Groves, assistant editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)a
- a BMJ, London WC1H 9JR
On 23 September 1996 Professor Praveen Aggarwal in New Delhi appealed to doctors and researchers around the world for help. “We are facing a near epidemic of dengue haemorrhagic fever in Delhi, India,” he said. “Despite managing these patients on the lines stated in textbooks, many of our patients are dying. I wonder whether we are erring somewhere in diagnosis and management of these patients. Therefore, I request you kindly email me some of the recent information on pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of these patients.”
Professor Aggarwal had sent his plea by electronic mail through a global computer network called Health-Net. Specifically, he had posted his message to ProMed (the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases): a 24 hour, seven day a week, electronic conference on emerging diseases. Prompted by this appeal, a team from the World Health Organisation's regional office for South East Asia visited Dr Aggarwal's hospital the next day, bringing advice on staff training and two brand new reports on managing dengue haemorrhagic fever. Over the next 10 days Dr Aggarwal was offered help by a doctor with 10 years' experience of treating the disease in Rio de Janeiro and put in touch with another doctor in Bangkok who worked at the centre of a major dengue epidemic last year.
Professor Aggarwal works in the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, a large and prestigious medical school in a city. But he could have been practising in a remote rural village with no phone lines and still have got the help he needed. This is because SatelLife, a not for profit organisation based in Boston, has spent the past 10 years linking up health professionals and researchers in the developing world through satellite, radio, and—where available—telephone systems.
HealthNet, SatelLife's electronic network, is just one of many initiatives currently trying …