(Many thanks to Charlie Greenberg, ICS member, for sharing these thoughts from this session–all the credit to him.)
The Healthcare Information for All by 2015 sponsored by the International Cooperation, Corporate Information Services, Federal Libraries and Public Health/Health Administration Sections kicked off with moderator Kathy Kwan reading a statement from Neil Pakenham-Walsh, the Coordinator of the HIFA2015 initiative:
“I am honoured to introduce this important Session on improving access to health information around the world, and I thank Kathy Kwan for reading this introduction on my behalf.
It is a tragic reality that citizens and health workers continue to be starved of the information and knowledge they need to protect their own health and the health of others. More than 20,000 people die unnecessarily every day in low- and middle-income countries. The vast majority of these deaths could have been easily avoided with simple interventions – furthermore, these interventions are often locally available, but are simply not provided.
When I worked as an isolated health worker in rural Peru in 1987, a dead child was brought to my health post. This 2-year old child had been well until 2 days before, and then developed diarrhoea. His mother wrongly believed that she should withhold fluids. She did the exact opposite of what should be done. The child got worse, and died in his mother’s arms on the way to my health post. More than 2000 children die EVERY DAY due to untreated dehydration from diarrhoeal disease in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Every day. And almost all of these deaths could have been prevented with basic oral fluid replacement.
I am sure you will agree that it is unacceptable that people should die simply because they did not have basic information and knowledge to know what to do. We, as health information professionals, have a vital role to empower citizens and health professionals to protect their health and the health of others.
HIFA was launched in 2006 in Mombassa, Kenya. We have five global forums in English, French and Portuguese, bringing together more than 10,000 librarians, health information professionals, health workers, publishers, researchers and policymakers from more than 2000 organisations in almost every country in the world, in English, Portuguese and French. We are supported by more than 170 organisations, including the MLA and the World Health Organization.
On behalf of HIFA, I would like to thank the Medical Library Association for supporting the HIFA vision: a world where people are no longer dying for lack of basic healthcare knowledge. I would like also to send our greetings to all participants for a successful Congress and, in particular, a successful and rewarding HIFA2015 Session. We look forward to hear about it and to continue the global conversation with you on the HIFA2015 forum.”
The first speaker, Alexa Mayo from the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library, presented her school’s international collaboration to improve medical education in Kenya, which included contemporary digital library training for three Kenyan library staff members.
The second speaker, former Cunningham fellowship recipient Grace Ajuwon, presented a report on a librarian-initiated HIV/AIDS prevention program she organized in a rural area of Nigeria, which also used a dramatic presentation as a teaching tool for the rural audience.
The third speaker, Annamore Matambanadzo PhD., described the outreach project to both African Americans and African immigrant populations in the Pittsburgh area, based on an RML grant.
The fourth speaker, librarian Carlos Rodriguez from the University of Pennsylvania, describe the Guataemala Health Initiative conducted by a partnership of the Medical School and health sciences library.
For the conclusion, Grace Ajuwan returned to the podium to describe a new organization formed by former Cunningham Fellows, the Network of African Medical Librarians (NAML), to create training materials and conduct training for colleagues.
Many questions and comments were contributed from the audience, and Kathy expressed her appreciation to those that attended this global health session.