Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Health Information Service in the Northern Region of Bangladesh: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Public Health Information Service in the Northern Region of Bangladesh: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

In spite of the prevalence of various socio-economic problems, Bangladesh has made significant progress in healthcare. According to the World Health Organization statistics (2004) the life expectancy at birth for both sexes increased from 56.1 in 1991 to 64.9. in 2002. Male life expectancy has increased from 56.5 years in 1991 to 64.5 years in 2002 and female life expectancy increased from 55.7 years to 65.4 years during the same period. However, many of the rural people of Bangladesh still lack access to critical healthcare services. They also suffer from a lack of access to public health information services, which seriously undermine their scope of receiving timely and effective healthcare. Especially the people living in rural and far-flung areas find little opportunity to keep abreast of latest information on healthcare facilities. As a result of this, poor and underprivileged people cannot avail themselves of the public healthcare services and facilities provided by the government and non-government organizations.

Public health information service and its importance for Bangladesh

Public health has been defined by various authorities in different ways. According to the United States' Institute of Medicine (2009), 'Public health is what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy. This requires that continuing and emerging threats to the health of the public be successfully countered. These threats include immediate crises, such as the AIDS epidemic; enduring problems, such as injuries and chronic illness; and growing challenges, such as the aging of our population and the toxic by-products of a modern economy, transmitted through air, water, soil, or food. These and many other problems raise in common the need to protect the nation's health through effective, organized, and sustained efforts led by the public sector.' The United Kingdom's Faculty of Public Health (2012) defines public health as the 'science and art of promoting and protecting health and well-being, preventing ill-health and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society. College of Public Health at the University of South Florida (2012) observes, 'with its focus on health promotion and disease prevention, public health provides a foundation for our health care system that ultimately means lower health care costs. While physicians treat the ills of individuals, public health professionals attack society's health problems--domestic violence, teen smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, hazardous waste and dangerous workplaces.'

Receiving appropriate, timely and need-based information on healthcare is the key to guaranteeing timely and effective healthcare services. Public Health Information Services support health professionals and partners to improve the health of people by providing quality health information and resources. Some of the important areas covered by these services are public health, health inequalities and health improvement, disease detection, outbreak management and lifestyle information on specific health topics. These services are equipped with a strong search and retrieval system which assists people in retrieving their desired information. As Tilson and Berkowitz (2012) show, information system capacity of the public health information service is of particular importance. Providers within the system need to collaborate rapidly around the collection, analysis and reporting of data related to healthcare and the detection, prevention and treatment of diseases. Improving the two-way flow of information could help providers get disease prevention information at the point of care, and it could help public entities more quickly gain health data to spot trends quickly.

Bangladesh has been suffering from a severe shortage of health workers, in terms of a shortage of qualified providers, an inappropriate skills-mix and inequity in distribution (Ahmed et al 2011). …

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