Meeting the health information needs of health workers: what have we learned?

J Health Commun. 2012;17 Suppl 2:23-9. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.666626.

Abstract

The information challenges facing health workers worldwide include lack of routine systems for seeking and sharing information, lack of high-quality and current health information, and lack of locally relevant materials and tools. This issue of Journal of Health Communication presents three studies of health information needs in India, Senegal, and Malawi that demonstrate these information challenges, provide additional insight, and describe innovative strategies to improve knowledge and information sharing. Results confirm that health workers' information needs differ on the basis of the level of the health system in which a health worker is located, regardless of country or cultural context. Data also reveal that communication channels tailored to health workers' needs and preferences are vital for improving information access and knowledge sharing. Meetings remain the way that most health workers communicate with each other, although technical working groups, professional associations, and networks also play strong roles in information and knowledge sharing. Study findings also confirm health workers' need for up-to-date, simple information in formats useful for policy development, program management, and service delivery. It is important to note that data demonstrate a persistent need for a variety of information types--from research syntheses, to job aids, to case studies--and suggest the need to invest in multifaceted knowledge management systems and approaches that take advantage of expanding technology, especially mobile phones; support existing professional and social networks; and are tailored to the varying needs of health professionals across health systems. These common lessons can be universally applied to expand health workers' access to reliable, practical, evidence-based information.

MeSH terms

  • Health Communication / methods
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Information Services*
  • Malawi
  • Senegal