Final Report

Kathleen Armstrong
Publication Date
April 1, 2004

This 86-page report examines INASP-Health, a United Kingdom (UK)-based programme of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), which was launched in 1996 with the goal of facilitating access to reliable, relevant information for health professionals in developing and transitional countries. INASP-Health produced an operational plan to guide their work in the period 2001-2003; this document shares details about that plan and measures success within each of the components of the plan. A team of external consultants undertook the evaluation largely through surveys of recipients of support through the INASP-Health programme, which was designed to "facilitate the development of a strong and effective 'international health information community'" through a participatory process. That is, "INASP-Health seeks to be fully inclusive. Participation is free of charge and open to all, North and South, whether through physical attendance at meetings and/or by email exchange."

As detailed here, INASP-Health seeks to foster increased intersectoral contact and sharing of skills and experience as part of an effort to promote international networking amongst all those involved in the provision and use of health information - including librarians, publishers, biomedical researchers, funding agencies, development professionals, frontline healthcare providers, public health specialists, social scientists, and others. INASP activities have included establishing a directory of organisations working to improve access to reliable health information, email discussion lists (e.g., the Health Information Forum (HIF) list), online resources and links, workshop series, and other forums for health professionals to meet and exchange ideas (e.g., an Advisory and Liaison Service).

An excerpt from the Executive Summary follows:

"...INASP-Health has done well in focussing on detailed work and activities, such as the organisation of HIF meetings and the moderation of the HIF-net at WHO [World Health Organization] list. What is missing is the wider strategic perspective...


A thriving global communications network
INASP-Health has gone some way to building a 'thriving global communications network'. It is not in itself a network but plays a linking role in a web of different networks....HIF meetings bring people (mostly from the London area) together in face-to-face meetings and HIF-net at WHO is an active electronic discussion network that connects people in all regions of the world. Today, INASP-Health needs to be much more clear about who it wants to link together and why – and to monitor each activity to ensure that they operate in a way that helps to achieve these linkages.

A dynamic range of demand-led information resources
A good set of resources has been developed to help provide access to health information. It is important however that decisions are made about how these and future resources will be developed and whose demands these 'demand-led information resources' aim to meet. It is also important to decide what is appropriate for INASP-Health to support and develop and what should be referred on to other organisations. A framework will also help in monitoring whether the resources are meeting the needs of those for whom they were developed. The promotion of INASP-Health's resources is also an issue that needs attention because unless their target audiences know about them, they will not be effective in facilitating communications.

Needs-driven action plans
Some progress was made in developing 'needs-driven plans to address priorities' through collaboration with the WHO on HIF-net at WHO, the establishment of two HIF action groups and discussions regarding support for the establishment of HIF-like groups in developing countries. However, clearer processes need to be developed on issues such as who feeds into planning and through what mechanisms; the role and development of HIF action groups; the purpose and development of HIF-like groups; and future cooperation with the WHO.

A capacity-building programme of practical workshops
The role that INASP-Health plays in capacity development is an issue that needs to be resolved and clarified as part of the strategic planning exercise. INASP-Health may decide to focus its efforts on ways to establish and maintain effective networks – to support the networking at country and regional level – devising workshops that will help develop skills in the development and maintenance of effective networks and networking communication tools. In this areas as well, INASP-Health could also benefit from closer integration with other INASP-supported initiatives such as the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) in developing countries.

A central resource of materials relating to information needs
Insufficient staff time has been available to develop materials relating to information needs that were envisaged in the original plan. If this output remains as one of the objectives in the next Operational Plan, it needs to have a clear strategy which is matched with adequate staffing and financial resources – or plans for how it will be achieved by other means.

An internationally recognised mechanism for advocacy
INASP-Health's advocacy strategy so far has been to raise awareness through its various activities about the need for access to health information. There has not been a clearly defined advocacy strategy. If the strategic planning process decides that advocacy is to continue to be an objective of INASP-Health, then the organisation needs to decide what outcomes they want from that advocacy, who they want to target and how it will be achieved..."


Posting from Neil Pakenham-Walsh to The Communication Initiative's DrumBeatChat forum, with the topic Participatory Communication: The Case for Quantitative Assessment, February 12 2007.