Although Portuguese is the 6th most commonly spoken language in the world and the most common in the Southern hemisphere, spoken by more than 300 million people in eight Member States across four continents, an ongoing need exists to develop Portuguese content in the health sector. Health professionals from Portuguese- speaking countries in Africa constantly ask the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide them with reliable and up-to-date health information in their own language.
Towards a Solution
With the support of WHO, an ePORTUGUÊSe Network was designed to support alliances and cooperation among education, research and health care institutions in Portuguese-speaking countries by promoting health and disseminating scientific and technical information and health knowledge. Moreover, the Network makes it possible to apply scientific information and evidence in health systems and helps to overcome language barriers and bridge the know-do gap. It also reflects WHO’s principle of multilingualism.
The mission of the ePORTUGUÊSe Network is to strengthen collaboration among Portuguese-speaking countries, promote capacity-building for human resources in health and facilitate access to health information in Portuguese. One of the main objectives is to improve access to health-related information in Portuguese through the development of the Virtual Health Library (VHL) model coordinated by BIREME, a specialized centre of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
The network is an example of extending the principle of multilingualism to developing countries and constitutes a contribution in terms of achieving the SDGs. It fulfils a long- term demand of health professionals in the African Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, and Timor- Leste) which have continually expressed their need for improved access to health information and knowledge in their own language.
In addition to the main objectives, ePORTUGUÊSe has also: fostered access to the latest health information at the local, regional, national and international levels; promoted visibility and support for local knowledge production; facilitated the use of knowledge in policy and action by providing relevant information for policymakers and practitioners; built capacity for human resources in health in several areas by providing training in various fields (virtual campus) as the scientific community generates new evidence; contributed to WHO’s Global Health Library initiative; contributed to WHO’s Hinari initiative, a platform to foster access to research outputs; and contributed to WHO’s effort to promote multilingualism.
The sustainability of the initiative depends on support, mobilization and active coordination within the network. Some of the best practices that can be drawn from this experience and replicated are as follows:
- Digital libraries: Virtual Health Library (VHL): the Latin American and Caribbean Centre on Health Sciences Information provides free access to scientific and technical health information;
- Virtual Health Library of the ePORTUGUÊSe network: VHL was developed to support the work of the ePORTUGUÊSe network;
- Multimedia Library: a collection of resources is available online (only in Portuguese) from Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca (ENSP) and Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Physical libraries include the Blue Trunk Libraries (BLT), basic books on health in the Portuguese language donated by the Brazil’s Ministry of Health. From 2006 to 2011, 153 BLTs were sent to Portuguese-speaking African countries and 20 to Timor-Leste. The two impact evaluations on the use of the BTL have demonstrated that they continue to be an important source of information, especially in rural areas.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 3.b, 4.7
Countries/ territories involved: Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, Timor- Leste
Supported by: PAHO/WHO, BIREME, Ministry of Health of Brazil, FIOCRUZ
Implementing entities: PAHO/WHO
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2005 – Present
Country and Sub-Regional Coordination Office, PAHO, firstname.lastname@example.org