Access to research helps health professionals treat patients in low-income countries

Research4Life’s HINARI program awarded Medical Library Association medal

Dr. Tim Meade treats Zambian children at a Tiny Tim & Friends clinic in Lechwe Village, about two hours outside the Zambian capital of Lusaka.It’s 2003, and a 7-month pregnant woman is living in the bus terminal in Lusaka, Zambia. She cannot afford medical care, but she needs it: she’s HIV positive. When the Sisters of a local orphanage find her, they take her to Dr. Tim Meade, a doctor specializing in HIV care in pregnant women and children. Dr. Meade delivered the baby successfully, and to thank him, the mother called the boy Tim.

About 1 in 5 people are living with HIVin Lusaka, and after treating the pregnant woman and baby Tim, Dr. Meade was inspired to set up the nonprofit organization Tiny Tim & Friendsto support thousands of other patients.

Having access to the latest research on HIV is vital, and for a nonprofit organization in a developing country, cost is a key concern.

Last month, the program that provides this much-needed access was awarded with the Medical Library Association Louise Darling Medal, honoring the program for its medical research collection.

Free and low-cost literature for low-income countries

Kimberly Parker, HINARI Programme Manager, World Health OrganizationHINARI's Louise Darling MedalIn 2002, the World Health Organization teamed up with 6 publishing partners, including Elsevier, to establish Research4Life’s HINARI Access to Research in Health program, which enables people in low- and middle-income countries to access one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. Today, some 500 publishing partners make their content available through HINARI. Research institutes, doctors and organizations like Tiny Tim & Friends use this content to improve people’s lives through healthcare improvements and policy changes.

Last month, the MLA honored HINARI with the 2015 Louise Darling Medal, which recognizes distinguished achievement in health sciences collection development. Kimberly Parker, HINARI’s program manager, was also recognized with the T. Mark Hodges International Service Award for her outstanding work on HINARI.

“This honor is due to the hard work and contributions not just of the HINARI team and the colleagues at Yale who do so much behind the scenes, but also all the publisher partners who have contributed their content,” Parker said.

Kimberly Parker, HINARI Programme Manager (center), holds the Medical Library Association’s 2015 Louise Darling Medal. Parker was also recognized with the T. Mark Hodges International Service Award for her outstanding work with HINARI. She is surrounded by colleagues from HINARI, Research4Life and the Medical Library Association.

Ylann Schemm, Chair of the Research4Life communications team and Head of Corporate Responsibility for Elsevier, highlighted Parker’s role in the success: Over the past decade, we have seen both HINARI and Research4Life grow exponentially, not only with the number of registered institutions and the content but also the growth of research output and the use of evidence based medicine in many developing countries. Much of this growth can be traced to Kimberly’s diplomatic, but highly strategic stewardship of the programs.”

Changing lives with access to research

HINARI is one of the four pillars of Research4Life, a public-private partnership that aims to reduce the scientific knowledge gap between industrialized countries and the developing world. With 170 partners offering access to more than 51,000 information sources today, the program helps people design and write up research, teach others and advance their careers.

In 2014, a HINARI impact survey of more than 1000 users and potential users revealed the importance of the program to local communities: 81 percent of respondents said that HINARI allows them to conduct research that has the potential to enhance the quality of life of people in their country. One respondent explained: “For us in developing countries, the value of HINARI cannot be overemphasized. It is impossible to conduct meaningful research without access to full-text articles of previous research and only HINARI provides this for us in developing countries.”

For Dr. Meade, access to research is fundamental to achieving the organization’s goal of zero mother-to-child HIV transmission. “Even a single article can change best medical practice on the ground in resource-poor settings,” he said.

Tiny Tim & Friends is featured in Making a Difference: Stories from the Field, a 2011 publication by Research4Life that shows how access to scientific resources can improve the livelihoods of communities around the world. Dr. Meade credits HINARI for allowing research that informs the development of policies and medical procedures that provide the best possible treatment.

In a recent update on the Research4Life blog, he stressed that access to HINARI is of crucial importance to the clinic:

HINARI continues to be a game-changer for us. It has allowed a small start-up NGO such as we were 10 years ago, to become a fully relevant medical and social intervention with international donor funding and a much more significant footprint.

Connecting and training: the role of the librarian

Nasra Gathoni, Librarian, Aga Khan University

Access to research is powerful, but collaborating with information experts can help users make an even bigger impact. “I strongly believe that the doctors can’t do what the librarians can do,” said Nasra Gathoni, a medical librarian at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya," and if we work together, we can save lives.”

In a 2014 Research4Life publication titled Unsung Heroes: Stories from the Library, Gathoni talks about the joy she experiences when looking for information online, and knowing where to find it. She helped train around 60 of Kenya’s most senior nurses to use the HINARI program. “Quite a number of the nurses had not even heard about HINARI and I felt very honored to tell them about such a useful resource,” she said.

Training is important, and access to training is one concern that HINARI users raised in the 2014 impact survey: some respondents reported experiencing difficulty finding the right training to use the platform. The Research4Life team are aware of the issue, and to help tackle the lack of access to training, the Elsevier Foundation’s Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries program has funded a number of initiatives.

One of these is Librarians Without Borders, set up in partnership with the MLA, which is responsible for the training infrastructure behind Research4Life. In 2014, Research4Life launched an online training portal to centralize all training materials, including those that support HINARI users.

Did you know?

In 2014, there were more than 3.9 million Research4Life article downloads from Elsevier’s ScienceDirect through the HINARI program. As a founding partner, Elsevier contributes more than a quarter of the 51,000 peer reviewed resources in Research4Life, encompassing Scopus and ScienceDirect, including over 3,100 Elsevier journals and 13,000 books.

Related resources

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Elisa NelissenElisa Nelissen has just graduated from a Master's degree in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, with a specialization in Publishing Studies. After an internship with Elsevier’s Corporate Responsibility program in 2014, she is now supporting the Global Communications team.

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