9º World Congress on Health Information and Libraries

Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, September, 20 to 23 - 2005


4th Regional Coordination Meeting of the VHL

September, 19 to 20 - 2005

Barriers to Access to Information on the Health of Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Canada

  • Health Sciences Library, McGill University, Montreal  - Canadá
  • Manager and Professor, Health Sciences Information Service, University of Alaska Anchorage  - Alaska

Access to information on the health of indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada has improved with broader access to existing databases such as Medline, the Native Health Databases (http://hsc.unm.edu/library/nhd/index.cfm) of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and those of organizations with broad mandates including the health of indigenous peoples, such as the Canadian Circumpolar Institute and the Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary. The introduction of websites such as ArcticHealth (http://www.arctichealth.org) and American Indian Health (http://americanindianhealth.nlm.nih.gov/) have significantly improved access. The nature and content of these databases and websites will be quantified and compared as sources for information on this topic.

Barriers beyond technology remain, created by cult ural issues, by the inaccessibility of grey literature, and by questions concerning the intellectual ownership of traditional knowledge. This talk will examine these cultural factors, including language and the reluctance of indigenous peoples to participate in research undertaken by those from other cultures. The accessibility of the grey literature will be evaluated. This material is often available in full text on organization websites, but the hunt for it requires visits to numerous such sites. Indigenous peoples cross national borders so publications dealing with their health are issued by national, state, and local as well as international agencies. This dispersed distribution presents barriers to accessibility. The comparison of databases described above will consider how well these issues are addressed and how effectively the grey literature is made accessible. Political barriers to collection and distribution of information will be evaluated. The paper will conclude by investigating trends perhaps co untering cultural sensitivities, such as a growing awareness that the knowledge of traditional healers is being lost as they age because they are not finding willing recipients for their knowledge within their cultures.