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DEVELOPMENT REPORT- July 23, 2001: Medical Information on the Internet - 2001-07-20

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Six major publishers have announced an agreement to provide developing countries with medical publications on the Internet computer system. The agreement includes about one-thousand of the top medical publications in the world. Some of the six publishers also plan to place medical books on the Internet in a similar way.

The World Health Organization asked the publishers to take the action so doctors and researchers in poor countries could improve health care in their nations. The agreement is expected to help at least six-hundred institutions in one-hundred developing countries. These include universities, medical schools, hospitals and research centers. The program also includes teaching people how to find the medical information using a computer. It will go into effect in January.

Scientific magazines have published medical research for more than fifty years. But many medical schools in developing countries cannot get the publications. One W-H-O official says most American medical schools get one-thousand or more publications. Most medical schools in developing countries get fewer than one-hundred.

One reason is cost. Most scientific publications cost between two-hundred and one-thousand-five-hundred dollars a year. Some cost even more. An extreme example is the magazine “Brain Research.” It costs seventeen-thousand dollars a year. It is among the publications included under the new agreement. More than sixty of the poorest countries will receive the publications on the Internet for free. More than thirty other countries will pay a reduced cost for the scientific magazines.

The publications will be on the Internet in a special place being created by the W-H-O. It will guarantee security and provide search tools. The W-H-O also is concerned that some countries still will not be able to get the information because they do not have computers. Officials say they are working on a plan to solve that problem. They plan to ask technology companies for help in providing more computers for researchers in developing countries.

W-H-O director Gro Harlem Brundtland says the agreement is the biggest step ever taken to equalize health information among rich and poor countries.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.