Press Release WHO/27
4 March 1998
WHO'S NEW ELECTRONIC JOURNAL PROMOTES EVIDENCE-BASED REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
On 4 March 1998 the World Health Organization (WHO) will launch in London, United Kingdom, its new annual peer-reviewed electronic journal The WHO Reproductive Health Library (RHL). RHL contains systematic reviews of controlled clinical trials on priority reproductive health topics, expert commentaries on the relevance for developing countries of the findings in the reviews, and practical advice on the management of reproductive health problems. (During the same week RHL will also be launched by its regional editors in China, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay. RHL will be launched in India during the third week of March 1998.)
RHL's main aim is to promote evidence-based care in the area of reproductive health by making available to health workers the most reliable and up-to-date medical information. Although primarily intended for use in developing countries, WHO expects that RHL will be of interest to health care professionals throughout the world.
RHL is being provided in electronic form (on a 3.5-inch diskette) so that large volumes of data can be made available at a low cost. RHL runs under Windows TM operating system and its use requires no special knowledge of computers. It comes with its own search engine, allowing rapid and easy access to the data in it.
Subscription to RHL will be free of charge for health workers in developing countries. Availability of RHL in developed countries will be restricted to scientists and institutions working closely with WHO or in developing countries. Others can access the reviews contained in RHL through a paid subscription to The Cochrane Library (available from Update Software, Oxford, UK). Additional material in RHL will be published on WHO's Internet web site (www. who.ch).
WHO thought it necessary to produce RHL as most health workers in developing countries do not have easy access to the latest reliable information on effective treatments. This is not only because of the high cost and erratic delivery of most subscription journals, but also because few medical journals publish comprehensive systematic reviews on the effectiveness of health care interventions in developing countries. Such information remains scattered in different papers in numerous journals, making it very difficult for health practitioners to get a good overview of all the data available on a given subject. On the other hand, most health workers working outside of teaching hospitals have little or no research experience and even when they have access to medical journals they often find it difficult to interpret correctly the significance of new findings for their practice. What makes RHL unique is that the reviews contained in it are not only comprehensive but also prepared using a systematic methodology. To make the findings in the reviews more relevant to developing countries, RHL includes expert commentaries on the findings in the reviews and practical advice on the management of reproductive health problems in developing-country settings.
Dr Paul Van Look, Associate Director of the UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP) says, "In spite of the vast amount of medical knowledge available, health workers don't always use treatments and procedures that are based on solid scientific evidence. Where resources for health care are limited, such as in most developing countries and, in fact, increasingly also in many developed countries, health services cannot afford to provide treatments that are either of unknown effectiveness or have been shown to be of questionable or no value at all. Health workers should strive to give the care for which there is sound scientific evidence of its worth".
The systematic reviews included in RHL are taken from The Cochrane Library, which is published by the Cochrane Collaboration, and is made up of several databases containing systematic reviews of health care interventions. These reviews are based on data from controlled clinical trials published in major medical journals in all world regions in all languages. All reviews are checked annually to see if they are up-to-date and are updated when new data become available. Rigorous scientific criteria are used in selecting and interpreting the studies included in the reviews. Hence, Cochrane reviews are increasingly being acknowledged as a major source of reliable, evidence-based medical information.
Dr Susan Holck, Director of WHO's Division of Reproductive Health (Technical Support) (RHT) says, "RHL puts the power of The Cochrane Library into the hands of reproductive health workers and health policy-makers in developing countries in a way that is truly meaningful and relevant to their special needs. It closes the gap between available information and the reproductive health needs in the developing world."
Areas of interest to RHL include sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and childbirth, neonatal diseases, breast-feeding, menstrual disorders, subfertility and infertility, fertility regulation, and gynaecological cancers.
Issue No.1 of RHL contains 27 Cochrane reviews and 22 peer-reviewed commentaries with practical recommendations for the management in developing countries of reproductive health problems at primary and secondary levels of care. Some of the topics covered in this issue are:
trichomoniasis treatment in women and men
treatment of gonorrhoea and chlamydia infection during pregnancy
antimalarial prophylaxis during pregnancy in malaria endemic regions
nutritional supplementation during pregnancy
social support during pregnancy and delivery
hypertensive disorders during pregnancy
RHL No. 1 also includes a directory of agencies funding reproductive health research in developing countries and a list of non-governmental organizations working in the area of reproductive health.
RHL is jointly produced by HRP and RHT in association with the Cochrane Collaboration. WHO gratefully acknowledges the financial contribution made to this project by the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Packard Foundation, USA. WHO is also grateful to the UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford, United Kingdom, for its valuable support to this project.
RHL's editorial board includes reproductive health experts from different parts of the world.
Dr A Metin Gülmezoglu, UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford, UK
Dr José Villar, HRP, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
Dr Kevin O'Reilly, RHT, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
Dr Guillermo Carroli, Rosario Centre for Perinatal Studies, Rosario, Argentina
Dr Linan Cheng, International Peace MCH Hospital, Shanghai, China
Dr Fariyal F. Fikree, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
Dr Justus Hofmeyr, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dr Ana Langer, Population Council, Mexico City, Mexico
Dr Pisake Lumbiganon, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
Statistics and methods editor:
Dr Ken Schulz, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
Mr Jitendra Khanna, HRP, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
RHL requires a PC with 386SX processor or higher, with minimum 4 MB RAM. Installation of the disk needs at least 4 MB of free space on the hard disk. RHL is currently produced only as a Microsoft Windows program.
An effort has been made to keep the hardware needed to use RHL to the type that is most likely to be available in developing countries. Although computers are not widely available at all levels in all developing countries, they are increasing being used in ministries of health and medical schools in most countries. Moreover, its is expected that medical school libraries will disseminate relevant information from RHL in printed form to those who request it.
For further information and to obtain a copy of RHL, please contact Jitendra Khanna, Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 3345. Fax (41 22) 791 4171. Email: email@example.com
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