WHO Web Site Gives Poor Nations Free Access to Medical Journals
The World Health Organization last Thursday launched the Health InterNetwork Web site, which will give approximately 70 developing nations online access to medical journals free of charge or at significantly reduced prices. The project, called the Access to Research initiative, aims to reduce the "health information gap" between wealthy and developing nations by giving participants access to journals they could not otherwise afford. The project was first announced in July 2001. Accredited universities, medical schools, research centers and other public institutions in qualifying nations will have access to more than 1,000 journals from the world's six largest publishers of medical literature (UniSci release, 2/1). Nations with per capita gross national products less than $1,000 annually will receive access free of charge, while countries with per capita GNPs between $1,000 and $3,000 will pay a small annual fee.
While the cost to participating publishers is expected to be nominal, WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland called the project "perhaps the biggest step ever taken" toward reducing global disparities in access to health information. Currently, many medical schools in developing nations have access to fewer than 100 journals, compared to about 1,000 journals received at most American medical schools (California Healthline, 7/9/01). The average annual cost of a subscription to one of the journals is several hundred dollars. Participating publishers include Blackwell Science, Elsevier Science, Springer Verlag, John Wiley & Sons, Harcourt Worldwide STM Group and Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. The firms will work with WHO and other public and private partners to extend the reach of the project, including training research staff and promoting Internet connectivity in developing nations. The initiative will last at least three years, and a second stage of the project will expand the number of participating countries beyond those already approved (UniSci release, 2/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.