oa South African Family Practice - African Index Medicus : improving access to African health information : open forum
Information flow is the key to improving health development, especially in developing countries. African medical publications are poorly represented in the major medical electronic databases. African Index Medicus (AIM) is a joint initiative between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA) to store regionally-generated biomedical information. Proposed in 1980 and initiated in 1993, AIM was reactivated in 2005 and now emphasises full text accessibility and web publishing. To promote the use of AIM and the sharing of health knowledge, the WHO has provided national focal points with training, computers and scanners. Publishing still faces the challenge of strengthening networks of national focal points and African medical editors, as well as transferring technology and experience to African countries. There also remain the more basic constraints of costs, training, marketing and the low status of both research and publishing. The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases further found problems of underfunding, irregular publication schedules, low quality articles and a lack of international visibility. A TDR (Research and Training in Tropical Diseases) survey in early 2006 revealed that although there is increased health research and journal activities in African countries, the challenges of quality, content and accessibility remain. Since its inception in 2002, the Forum of African Medical Editors has held three training workshops for editors to correct some of these problems. AIM will soon be part of the WHO Global Health Library; both provide access to health information that will contribute to meeting the millennium development goals for health. These initiatives promise more health information for resource-poor settings, especially in Africa.
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