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Health Information for Disaster Preparedness in Latin America. Presentation to: EnHIOP, 12-04 Tallahassee, FL By: John C. Scott Center for Public Service Communications On behalf of: National Library of Medicine. Central American Disaster Health Information Network. Project Origins .

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Health Information for Disaster Preparedness in Latin America

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Health Information for Disaster Preparedness in Latin America

Presentation to:

EnHIOP, 12-04

Tallahassee, FL

By: John C. Scott

Center for Public Service Communications

On behalf of:

National Library of Medicine

Central American Disaster Health

Information Network

Project Origins

Hurricane Mitch - 1998

El Salvador Earthquakes -2001

Project Goal

Support, rebuild, and improve the health information infrastructure of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador and Guatemala:

  • Technology infrastructure

  • Training of health science librarians

  • Information product development

Managing Disastersis Managing Information

Reliable information is the

most valued commodity

before and after a disaster.


Hurricane Mitch October 1998

El SalvadorEarthquakesJan./Feb. 2001

NLM/PAHO Special Project

  • Unique opportunity for collaboration between NLM, as the world’s largest medical library and PAHO whose mission is improving the health of the people of the Americas

  • Use the Regional Disaster Information Center for Latin America and the Caribbean (CRID) as contractor


  • Collect and disseminate literature on disasters

  • DESASTRES bibliographic database

    • Over 15,000 disaster-related documents


Disaster Information Management

  • Wealth of information but little is accessible

    • Information about lessons learned is valuable throughout the region, but little in writing and often not circulated.

  • Grey Literature

    • Disaster health information in developing countriesis perishable: it’s not peer-reviewed; frequently unpublished

  • Internet Access

    • Internet access has been limited, but this is changing. Info access has gone from weeks/months to minutes and from hard copy to searchable electronic files

Participating Sites - Honduras

Centro Universitario Region Norte

University of Honduras

Medical School

Participating Sites - Nicaragua

University of Nicaragua

Medical School

School of Public Health of UNAN

Participating Sites – El Salvador

Health Documentation & Information

Center, Ministry of Health & University

of El Salvador

Center for the Protection

against Disasters

Participataing Site: Guatemala

Universidad de San Carlos, Biblioteca

de la Facultad de Medicina

Note: Guatemala was funded by U.K. via PAHO

Project Objectives

  • Training of health science librarians

  • Improving technology infrastructure

  • Development of Information Products

Librarian Training

  • Four train-the-trainers courses

    • Costa Rica ( 2001); Bethesda, MD (2001) Nicaragua (2002); Guatemala (2004)

    • Librarians and computer specialists

  • Additional training

    • Librarians now training professionals, researchers, government officials, community organizations, etc in their own countries

Technology Infrastructure

  • Computer Equipment Installation

    • Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (Summer 2001)

    • El Salvador (Summer 2002)

    • Guatemala (January 2004)

    • Each site received a server, router, UPS, switch, laser printer, scanner, and two PCs

  • Internet Connectivity

    • 128K in Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador

    • 256K at CRID

Information Products

Digital Library

  • 3,800 documents digitized and available through the CRID web site

  • Links from DESASTRES database to documents

  • Documents also available from local disaster information centers

  • CDs: Top 100 documents

    special topics

Information Products (continued)

  • Document accessibility

    • Develop full-text searching capability of documents

  • Web site development by participating sites

    • Health resources

    • Disaster resources

    • Local resources

Future Activities

  • Disaster Health Information Center Toolkit

  • Expansion of Network

    • Funding from UK to add Guatemala

    • Possible Caribbean, South America expansion

    • Increased attention to related issues: environmental health/toxicology

  • Promotion and Evaluation

  • Information Product Development

  • Information Technology Support

Evaluation and Sustainability

  • Use of NLM and CRID resources by participating sites for disaster planning

  • Incorporate information resources into curriculum

  • Migrate program to local management withcontinued support from the internationaldonor community

Lessons Learned

  • Success requires leadership and vision at many levels

  • Multiple sites require time, energy, patience,flexibility

  • Collaboration requires sensitivity to linguistic and cultural issues

  • Partnerships require teamwork and compromise

  • Possible applicability in US states/local communities

  • Value in NLM-PAHO collaboration


Dissemination of quality information is:

the most cost

effective disaster

reduction activity

and a way to

empower national

and local


Project Team

  • NLM: Ms. Stacey Arnesen; Mr. Victor Cid Dr. Melvin Spann

  • PAHO: Mr. Ricardo Perez

  • CRID: Mr. Dave Zervaas and staff

  • CPSC: Mr. John Scott

Project Team

Cecilia Garcia, UNAH

Dave Zervaas & CRID staff

Central American librarians& computer specialists

Ricardo Perez, PAHO;John Scott, CPSC

Stacey Arnesen, Victor Cid. NLM

Mel Spann , NLM

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