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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

Health Information Resources for Developing Countries: Glossary/Other Resources

Information about providing health related resources to support clinical, research or educational programs in developing countries or resource-poor settings. Audience: University of Washington faculty, staff and students.

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Key Reference Materials


Creative Commons licenses provide simple, standardized alternatives to the “all rights reserved” paradigm of traditional copyright.

Developing Country.  For these pages defined by GNI per capita (World Bank figures).  Most for profit publishers providing free access to their materials use this definition.

Librarian: This title applies to people who have professional training.  Depending upon the country it may be a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited library school program.  If a person has this more formal training you can assume understand the many facets of library operations.  In addition to establishing, organizing, and maintaining the facility and collection; managing staff; and providing basic reference service, librarians often provide in depth reference service; computers and training in their use, basic and advanced literacy education, help with finding and using community resources. Other staff who work in the library may be considered library technicians or paraprofessionals.  

Library: Although traditionally thought of as a collection of materials (mostly book and journals) and the facility housing the materials and staff, modern libraries often provide public facilities to access electronic resources and the Internet. They extend services beyond the physical walls of a building and provide the assistance of librarians in navigating, analyzing, and organizing information with a variety of digital tools.  Additionally they may provide space and resources for groups of people who want to collaborate in learning activities.  Typically the functions in the library can be categorized as administration and technical, public and computer support services.  To help create and maintain a functional operation libraries should have written mission and collection development statements, job descriptions, and a policy and procedure manual.

Open Access (publishing) provides access to material via the Internet in such a way that the material is free for all to read, and to use (or reuse) with varied restrictions, e.g., may be copyrighted, may be under a Creative Commons license.

Public Domain Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired and / or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited.  (Wikipedia)

Resource-Poor Setting.  Regions in any country where people have inadequate access to needed resources.


  • FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: essential documents, statistics, maps and multimedia resources, includes topics such as food security.         
  • NIH/NLM: National Library of Medicine maintains international partnerships and projects that strengthen and expand global access to the world's health literature. The Office of International Programs focuses on outreach to medical students, health workers, researchers, physicians, and librarians in developing countries.  Provides fellowships to African librarians.
  • NIH/CDC Centers for Disease Control provides information on communicable diseases, includes a global scope.  Funds many projects that serve developing countries
  • USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. Work includes support of global health programs.
  • WHO supports programs to access information in developing countries and publishes/distributes many documents useful to those countries and in other resource poor settings 

More: Link to list of organizations on Partners in Health Information(UK) website


  • eIFL (Europe) Access to Knowledge for Education, Learning and Research , works with libraries worldwide to enable access to digital information in developing and transition countries. Programs include:
    • EIFL-LicensingThrough central negotiation with publishers, EIFL negotiates highly discounted prices and fair terms of use to increase access to scholarly material which is essential for research and education. 
    • EIFL-OA: Open access: EIFL advocates for the adoption of open access policies and mandates and builds capacities to launch and sustain open access repositories.
    • EIFL-IP: Copyright and libraries:  EIFL seeks to address these issues by promoting fair and balanced copyright laws that support libraries in providing access to knowledge.
    • EIFL-FOSS: Free and open source software for libraries:  EIFL supports the deployment of free and open source software and provides the necessary training, enabling libraries to achieve significant cost savings.
  • Eldis one of a family of knowledge services from the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex.  It aims to support the documentation, exchange and use of evidence-based development knowledge and focuses on materials which are of strategic, policy or practical interest for development practitioners based in both the North and South.
  • ERC: The Manager’s Electronic Resource Center an electronic information service produced by MSH (Management Sciences for Health). The site gives access to relevant, up-to-date management information and tools specifically tailored to meet the needs of health service managers.
  • INASP (UK) International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications works with partners to support global research communication focusing on the needs of developing and emerging countries.  Includes PERI, Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information.   Donor agencies support knowledge-based activities in selected countries by financing access to journals in collaboration with PERI.  Because of differences in the funding provided by bilateral funders for each country, the resources accessible via PERii vary between countries, from a few journals to literally thousands.
  • Knowledge for Health (K4Health) (US) at Johns Hopkins, is a leader in health information dissemination using traditional and new media mechanisms and in facilitating information use through dynamic learning and exchange programs.
  • New School. Center for Public Scholarship Includes hardcopy journals that are available from publishers, e.g. Lancet, and a list of free online web resources categorized by topic. JDP is an effort to help university libraries in certain world regions to access online journals at affordable costs and also build up collections of back volume sets. The project is run by the New School University in New York. Examples of countries currently served are Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, but be sure to check the list occasionally for additions and changes.
  • Research4Life (WHO)is the collective name for three programmes – HINARI (health), AGORA (agriculture) and OARE (environment). It provides developing countries (as defined by GNI) with free or low cost access to academic and professional peer-reviewed content online.
  • Source: international information support centre designed to strengthen the management, use and impact of information on health and disability.
  • WiderNet Project: Coordinated by the University of Iowa, this organization offers sources, coaching, training, computers and educational materials to schools, clinics, libraries and homes with poor digital communication resources. For a fee they distribute the eGranary Digital Library a plug-and-play server that provides instant access to millions of digital documents without the need of connection to the Internet.

Key Reference Materials

General Resources
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Medical Library Association Guide to Managing Health Care Libraries, 2nd Ed.  Bandy MM and Dudden RF, eds.  Neal-Schuman, 2011.  ISBN: 9781555707347 

Table of contents available on publishers website at MLA Publications presents the domains of library work to consider when establishing an information service.

Resource Centre Manual: How to set up and manage a resource centre.  Healthlink Worldwide. Rev. ed. Healthlink Worldwide, 2003. ISBN: 0907320570.

Gives practical advice about setting up a resource center in developing countries. Can download under Creative Commons license, "Share and share alike".  In 2011 still accessible online, but hosted by website now defunct.




 Setting Up a Library: A Resource Guide.  ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 16. Especially note: The Church Library: An Outline of Procedure, 3rd Revised Edition, by Erma Jean Loveland, 2000 (

Establishing a library involves several functions: creating the oversight or governance structure, defining the mission and purpose of the organization, securing funding, planning, developing a collection, securing or building an appropriate space, equipping the space, and marketing services. In all cases, planning for the collection should come first.





Research 101.

 Interactive online tutorial for students wanting an introduction to research skills created by John Holmes, UW, 2001-2005. Developed as a model for others to adapt and not being currently updated.  Search Google under Research 101 for more current versions from other institutions although those versions may include local content.

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