UN health agency puts biomedical research on web for developing countries

UN health agency puts biomedical research on web for developing countries

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today made one of the largest collections of biomedical literature available on the Internet - a move which put critical research at the fingertips of thousands of doctors, policy-makers and other professionals in some 70 developing countries.

The initiative, carried out by WHO and the world's six biggest medical journal publishers, constitutes "perhaps the biggest step ever taken towards reducing the health information gap between rich and poor countries," said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Called "Access to Research," the effort enables accredited universities, medical schools, research centres and other public institutions in developing countries to gain access to the wealth of scientific information contained in more than 1,000 different biomedical journals produced by the six publishers.

Until now, subscriptions to those journals, both electronic and print, have been priced uniformly, irrespective of geographical location. Many key titles cost more than $1,500 per year, while average rates ran to several hundred dollars - well beyond the reach of the poorest countries.

Thanks to WHO and the six publishers - Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science, Springer Verlag and John Wiley - the journals are now online at www.healthinternetwork.net. Plans are also under way to expand the initiative in the future, according to the agency.