Demedts V, Schoonbaert D, Roelants G. Organization of health care in developing countries; selected publications (1980-2001). Antwerpen: Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, The Library, 2001: 168 pp.
Never before ‘information’ has been produced and made publicly available at a scale comparable to what we experience today. WWW indexes mine hundreds of millions of webpages, a substantial part of which dealing with health care in one way or another. A multitude of websites offer a hierarchically structured choice of resources, or specialise in particular health topics. Several of the more traditional bibliographic databases such as Medline, analysing the peer-reviewed literature with controlled vocabularies, have been freely available on the Internet for years.
Still, it may not be easy to identify published reports of quality studies in international health, especially when information on specific research topics or individual countries is required. The major bibliographic databases generally focus on the Western European and North American situation, and far less on that of developing countries. Their inherent selectivity of core sources will generally exclude both local journals and all non-journal article formats such as books, book chapters, and all kinds of reports and documents (e.g. by the World Health Organization) often referred to as grey literature. The enormous extent and impact of the biomedical literature published by international quality journals justifies these limitations. But it is unfortunate for the field of international health, as there such alternative publication types tend to have a greater relative importance than for other, more clinically or experimentally oriented biomedical discipines.
While finding adequate bibliographic references is one thing, getting hold of the actual full-text items is often even more problematic, especially when they are not published in the core journal literature. Books are more difficult to locate than journals; actually finding the grey literature is often a hopeless enterprise.
Participants of ITM’s International Course of Health Development (ICHD) organized by our Public Health Department (and now well into its fourth decade) are invariably confronted with this problem. In order to assist them in gathering adequate research literature, we built our own niche database named Health Care in Developing Countries [http://lib.itg.be/bs.htm]. From its start in the late 1980’s this endeavour has been based on two simple rules: only quality publications that are immediately relevant for research topics central to the ICHD course are selected, and the full-text item must be available in the ITM library. As such we have no ambition whatsoever to analyse the whole field of international health. Specialists may perhaps rightly protest that certain key publications are not to be found in this database. But while this somewhat idiosyncratic selection is intended as an immediate utility for a specific group of master students, we hope it may also prove valuable for others in the international health sector.
The following literature lists consist of a still more rigid selection of items from the database, arranged by a number of specific research topics. Only literature published from 1980 onwards is included. Within each section the references are presented in alphabetical order by author. Where multiple language versions exist (mostly French/English), both have been included. As this selection is so closely linked to our physical collection, ITM library book codes have been added for the benefit of our local users.