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Havana, Cuba, April 24-27, 2001.



CRICS V, the 5th Regional Conference on Health Sciences Information, was held from April 24 to 27 in Havana, Cuba, with the theme "Knowledge for Change", a goal this Congress achieved as a milestone for promoting and sharing knowledge and launching necessary changes.

This report is based on the core ideas presented by speakers and panel members in the plenary sessions, identifying the main conceptual and practical advances discussed in the Congress that shed light on work in health sciences information and knowledge issues in the Region.


Conceptual issues relevant to BIREME and members of the regional health sciences information network included Collective Intelligence as a diversified nervous system for humanity that involves both solidarity and competition.

The debate on Equity in Health focused on the need for a more in-depth analysis of its determinants, particularly the relations between inequalities in information and health.

There was also an interesting approach to Empowerment as fostered by new information and communications technologies for users and their utilization to include the excluded into the world's social and political life.

The Health Care debate focused on the impact of new ethical issues and standards of ethical conduct. Since knowledge and information are no longer the privilege of health care professionals, new roles are emerging for both patients and professionals.

Another major theme was the need to understand and overcome the so-called Digital Divide, where the roles of the state, the private sector, and international agencies must be redefined, based on recognizing information, knowledge and the Internet as global public goods whose provision should be a prime responsibility for governments and the international community.

The Congress also discussed and identified progress in strategies for a closer approach between research and decision-making by establishing scientific networks, the use of new technologies to create platforms for interaction between the main players in the production and utilization of knowledge, and overcoming agenda problems involving limited participation and unilateral relations between producers and users of knowledge. The Congress emphasized that scientific networks are integrated by information, communication, management, and access by their members as the key actors with their knowledge and ethical values.

Progress was also made in understanding the role of grassroots communities and their link to health systems by way of rational forms of access to data transmissions networks, facilitating dissemination of health-related information in communities.

The Congress fostered a deeper understanding of the process of selecting, classifying, analyzing, and evaluating information and knowledge through new technologies, many of which were presented at the Congress, as well as through expert consensus processes like the COCHRANE collaboration.

Both the limitations and potential of electronic publications were identified, not only to promote greater dissemination of knowledge but also to foster new ways of evaluating the quality and performance of researchers who publish their work electronically.

Finally, the Congress emphasized the changes affecting information professionals with the introduction of new technologies and information and knowledge management techniques, highlighting the need for these professionals to assume the new roles required of them by this changing environment.

The Organizing Committee