Comm Eye Health Vol. 30 No. 97 2017 pp 15-17. Published online 12 May 2017.

Accessing good health information and resources

Sally Parsley

E-communications manager, International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

Related content
Learning online AFRICA © ICEH
Learning online AFRICA © ICEH

Health workers need to be able to access health information and resources to update and apply their knowledge and skills and continue their professional development.

Making health information available and usable to all is a complex process not yet adequately addressed (see Figure 1). It has to be appropriate, high quality, timely, easy to understand, relevant for the location it will be used in, and provided in an appropriate format. For example, you cannot learn a new surgical skill by reading about it, a much better method is to take a course or watch a video, preferably one suited for the local need.

Illustrative figure detailing health information challenges
Figure 1 Which health information challenges do you face? How do you overcome them?

Where do you find these resources and opportunities? Information, communications technologies (ICTs) such as the internet are a promising mechanism to help address the health workforce information needs. Health workers need access to ICTs but they also need strong information and computer skills to search, select and make use of the available information and resources.1

Availability of high-quality, up-to-date and locally relevant materials is limited in many settings and there is a lack of investment and organisational support for developing information and computer skills and the infrastructure needed to access printed and digital information.

In every setting, major health stakeholders need to continue to develop and implement knowledge management strategies to enable health workers to use the evidence-based information and knowledge available to them.2,3

The following infographic aims to guide eye health clinicians, educators, managers and leaders on:

A. Identifying the information need

B. Developing a search strategy

C. Carrying out an effective online search

D. Finding sources of good eye health information and resources on the internet

A.Identifying the information need

Infographic showing how to think about the information which is needed
A.Identifying the information need

Identify the reasons why you need this information

  • Address knowledge gap. For example to improve a national policy or guideline
  • Update skills. For example to improve a local programme plan or team performance
  • Acquire competency. For example to improve training
  • Demonstrate performance. For example to improve clinical and quality of care
  • Other? For example to educate patients and community

Who is the information for? What health worker role?

  • Leader
  • Manager/administrator
  • Clinician
  • Educator
  • Allied health personnel
  • Community health worker
  • Patients and community
  • Other?

Identify the types of information you need

  • Policy document
  • Clinical or technical guide
  • Peer reviewed scientific data
  • Training course
  • Educational materials
  • Updates and news
  • Other? e.g. webinar, conference

Identify the LEVEL of information required or likely to be available

  • International or regional
  • National
  • District
  • Community
  • Patient


  • Reason for information need:…………
  • Health worker role (who information is for):…………
  • Types of information needed:…………
  • Level of information:…………

B. Developing a search strategy

Infographic about how to develop a search strategy
B. Developing a search strategy

What methods can you use to address your identified information need?

Which means are available and appropriate for finding high-quality, relevant, and usable information?

Face to face methods

Examples Strengths Weaknesses
  • Ask mentors & seniors
  • Take a course or training
  • Subscribe to paper journals
  • Go to a library
  • Attend a journal club with peers
  • Attend conferences
  • Buy books
  • Locally available resources
  • Network with local colleagues and experts
  • Difficult to assess quality of oral information
  • Printed materials may not be updated often
  • Need to keep track of physical notes
  • Cost of training, conferences, printed materials

Digital and internet methods

Examples Strengths Weaknesses
  • Subscribe to online journals
  • Alerts and feeds via email, apps, social media, aggregators*
  • Take online course
  • Join online community
  • Take part in webinars
  • Search the internet
  • Browse and search apps, websites, databases
  • Large quantity of high quality, evidence-based information and resources available
  • Global networking opportunities
  • Need good internet access
  • Need skills to find and assess quality
  • Information and resources are not always free/low cost
  • May not be relevant for local context

Think about how you will manage your information and resources

  • Keep a CPD diary or notes (handwritten or using an app e.g. Evernote)
  • Add resources to a reference library e.g. Mendeley
  • Keep copies of course credits and certificates
  • Use an app to save links to online resources e.g. Diigo
  • Archive resources (in print, on computer or in the cloud**)
  • Use digital alerts & feeds to stay up to date
  • Keep copies of database searches (e.g. in your PubMed account)

C. Carrying out an effective online search

Infographic with 6 key points on carrying out an effective online search
C. Carrying out an effective online search

1. Extract the keywords and phrases from your identified information need (see section A).

2. Identify which search engine to use. Internet search engines (such as Google) will return wide results but with variable quality.

3. Enter your keywords and phrases into the engine.

4. Select and evaluate results which seem relevant. Review the summary or abstract and exclude irrelevant or low quality resources. Ask yourself:

  • Who published this resource? Does the publisher have a good reputation? Has it been peer-reviewed for quality?
  • When was it published? Is it up to date?
  • Is the information suitable for use in your setting?
  • Is the resource ‘Open’? Can it be downloaded and shared for free? Or do you need to pay?
  • Is the technical production good? Can you, or anybody, access and use it easily?

5. Review the relevant resources in detail. E.g. read the whole article. If necessary, make notes of the most relevant information from each source. For complex information needs, integrate your notes into a matrix to help you track your ideas and relate back to your topic.

6. Manage your notes and information you have found (see section B).

D. Good sources of free and low cost eye care information and resources on the internet

Infographic listing lots of places to search for eye care information on the internet
D Good sources of free and low cost eye care information and resources on the internet

What have we missed out? Send suggestions to [email protected] or to CEHJ Twitter or Facebook and we will review and share them in later issues.

National and local sources

Eye care bodies in your country may provide useful health information and CPD opportunities. For example:

There may be professional interest groups you can join – face-to-face or by email or social media e.g. Facebook or WhatsApp.

Global data, policy and guidelines

Free online courses

  • International Centre for Eye Health courses
    Public health courses on Global Blindness: Planning and Managing Eye Care Services, Ophthalmic Epidemiology, Eliminating Trachoma and Diabetic Retinopathy (coming soon)
  • Cybersight courses
    A number of introductory clinical courses. Provided by ORBIS
  • Aurosiksha
    Short courses on eye care management from Aravind Eye Care System

Scientific databases

  • Medline/PubMed and PubMedCentral
    An index of the world’s biomedical literature from the National Library of Medicine, USA. PubMedCentral indexes Open Access literature
  • Cochrane Eyes and Vision Reviews
    Systematic reviews of the current scientific evidence on interventions to treat or prevent eye diseases or visual impairment.

Regional journals with free access

International and regional training and CPD providers

Educational materials: Libraries and databases

Image and video repositories

Eye care apps There are a number of free and low cost apps in ophthalmic education. Search for them on your app store. (See 2015 article from the AAO for ideas: “Top Ophthalmology Resident Apps”)

The HINARI – Access to Research Initiative provides not-for-profit institutions in low- and middle-income countries with free or very low cost access to biomedical and social science. Find out more about HINARI.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free to take with some optional fees e.g. for accreditation. MOOCs bring hundreds or even thousands of people together to learn about a subject. 6850 MOOCs were available by the end of 2016 from providers such as Coursera and EdX (USA), FutureLearn (UK), XuetangX (China), Miríada X (Ibero-Americas), Edraak (Arabic) and Swayam (India). The Global Blindness course (see page 10) is run as a FutureLearn MOOC once or twice a year. Register your interest in the Global Blindness course.

Class Central currently maintains one of the most up-to-date lists of MOOCs.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning materials free to anyone to access, reuse, adapt and share with others without having to seek permission from the original publisher. OERs are also called OpenCourseWare. A number of regional and health related OER repositories have been published: For example: OER Africa or MIT and John Hopkins Public Health OpenCourseWare sites.


1 D’Adamo, M., Fabic, M. S., & Ohkubo, S. (2012). Meeting the Health Information Needs of Health Workers: What Have We Learned? Journal of Health Communication, 17(sup2), 23–29. 10.1080/10810730.2012.666626

2 Bhaumik, S., Pakenham-Walsh, N., Chatterjee, P., & Biswas, T. (2013). Governments are legally obliged to ensure adequate access to health information. The Lancet Global Health, 1(3), e129–e130. 10.1016S2214- 109X(13)70043-3

3 Andualem M, Kebede G, Kumie A. Information needs and seeking behaviour among health professionals working at public hospital and health centres in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. BMC Health Services Research. 2013;13:534. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-534.

*Apps are any type of computer programme, often they refer to programmes downloaded onto smartphones. Social media are websites and apps that enable people to share ideas and content. E.g. Facebook, WhatsApp. Aggregators are software or applications that collect regularly published online content – such as newspapers and podcasts – in one location for easy viewing. e.g. Feedly

**The cloud is a type of internet-based computing which provides shared processing and storage on demand to computers and other devices.