The ninth Regional Congress on Health Sciences and Health Information (CRICS9) marked "a milestone in the areas of management of scientific information and technology, and their relation to eHealth", said the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses, at the closing session at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
Under the motto “eHealth – Reaching universal access to health,” at this conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by PAHO/WHO and its Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME), experts shared experiences and information on programs, projects, systems, and networks for health sciences information and communication in the Region. According to BIREME Director Adalberto Tardelli, some 400 people from 30 countries attended CRICS9, which was held on 22-24 October.
In her speech, PAHO Director Dr. Roses stressed that the meeting was helping to advance fulfillment of the mandates of the PAHO Governing Bodies, as well as promoting fulfillment of the responsibility of implementing the regional eHealth Knowledge Management and Communication strategies.
She pointed to the progress that has been made in identifying the importance of incorporating scientific evidence in health decision-making, in sharing telemedicine experience and good practices in the Americas and forming strategic partnerships for the purpose, and in reaffirming through practice that technology can provide solutions to health problems – for vulnerable populations in particular. Among other points, Dr. Roses underlined the importance of eHealth for access to health services and for emergency and disaster response.
She emphasized that having reviewed what can be done to incorporate telemedicine in patient care is an important step, and said that “We can more clearly see progress toward the democratization of access to scientific information and knowledge.”
“As enormous as these tasks appear,”she added, “by working together and in networks we will achieve better and earlier results than one might expect.”
As the conference concluded, Rosario Guzmán, of the PAHO Dominican Republic office, spoke on behalf of the countries and the Knowledge Management and Communication area as she presented Dr. Roses with a token of recognition for her “support over so many years” for efforts in knowledge management and training – an homage for which Dr. Roses in turn expressed her thanks.
At CRICS9, experts carried on dialogue through speeches, round tables, panels, and courses on subjects of relevance to public health. The activities were organized around five themes: information for health decisions, public strategies and policy, information and communication technologies, telehealth, and capacity building.
Among other things, PAHO took the occasion to reaffirm its commitment to the Member States with regard to establishing national and regional policies that promote free, equitable, and open access to information based on scientific evidence; educating health workers to facilitate their functioning in the “information society;” disseminating critical health information to the general public as a way of promoting good health decisions; and strengthening BIREME and the Virtual Health Library as a primary tool for improving the management of scientific and technical information in the health sciences.
Declaration of Washington
The event was preceded on 20 and 21 October by the Sixth Regional Coordination Meeting of the Virtual Health Library (VHL6), the main theme of which was also eHealth. The meeting was an in-person forum for the sharing of experiences and knowledge by the Virtual Health Library’s network of users, intermediaries, and institutions that generate scientific and technical health information.
BIREME Director Adalberto Tardelli stressed that the importance of the subject of this year’s CRICS9 was clear in the Declaration of Washington with which the VHL meeting culminated, and that the Declaration emphasizes strengthening information and knowledge as public goods.
In its letter, among other points, the members of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information urge the Region’s governments to strengthen the role of virtual health libraries in health systems, and urge academic institutions and civil society sectors to forge partnerships to promote research, training, and technical capacity in the area of knowledge and information management.
For their part, they express, among other things, a commitment to placing priority on broad access to all the information and knowledge resources that emerge from technical cooperation among the Region’s countries; to making national authorities aware of the need to promote access to information and incorporate the use of information and communication technologies in health policies and programs; and to collaborate in strengthening networks of people and institutions so that they can share information and knowledge to improve health care and prevent disease.
Access to the full text of the Declaration
The CRICS Congresses began in 1992 at the meeting of the then representatives of the 37 countries that formed the Latin American Health Information System, which is now the VHL network. It began as an innovative conference on scientific knowledge and information, knowledge management, information methodologies and technologies, and their applications in developing systems for health research, health education, and health care. Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Mexico were host countries for previous CRICS.