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Username: Fiona McLean
Date/Time: Tue, October 31, 2000 at 6:35 PM GMT
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer V5.01 using Windows NT
Score: 5
Subject: WHO-needs time; spend resources differently


It is commendable that WHO wants to put some time and effort into this issue, but there are several huge problems.

The main thing that is *essential* at this stage is a longer consultation time. In addition to previous comments, I would say:

1.It takes time, even in these days of cyberspace, for messages to truly travel the world. The US population is an important one, but there are millions of us who live elsewhere who have just as much of an interest. I've only just heard about this initiative and I am an English speaker,information professional, and have a particular issue in quality issues and health information.

2. Please can someone post a 'plain English' summary of this proposal to make it more accessible? The application materials are really difficult to understand, and that could obstruct this consultation process.

3. The issue of health information quality measurement is an *enormous* problem, both in how to do it (if doing it) and in all the initiatives currently underway. Please read an excellent article in the British Medical Journal on this (and the replies). Free full text at
Give these initiatives a little longer to come out with something clearer (not that it will be The Solution).

And the content manager of a website which has been offering links to 'quality checked' websites in the UK (funded by the National Health Service) for some time states that:
'I estimate that establishing and running a comprehensive kitemarking system for patient information in the UK would involve tens if not hundreds of people including subject experts, information professionals, designers etc. It would probably cost many millions of pounds and involve untold bureaucracy.'

4. Given all the other initiatives going on, and the huge costs of setting up and maintaining .health, why doesnt WHO put its resources into one of the quality initiatives instead (as mentioned in earlier messages eg Health on the Net, OMNI, etc etc)? I have put one url below to show just one example of what is already happening.

Maybe WHO could also work on making a gateway more useful and accessible to developing countries? For example, by developing content on sites such as local information, or providing translation of the information on websites WHO consider really useful into more languages, or culturally appropriate formats. And then linking to these from whatever gateway(s) they choose to support(or one they create, if they must),and publicising the existence of the gateway widely around the world.

The WHO has the local contacts and expertise worldwide which most organisations couldnt dream of. And also the opportunity (and responsibility?) to make information more accessible to the many people excluded by the current English language/developed countries emphasis of health websites.

Isnt that better than spending limited funds on the administration of .health - maybe including lawyers fees when being sued by prosperous websites fighting over the allocation of (or! I do appreciate their concern on this issue and the initiative, but please give it more time and consider different actions to meet the health information needs of people around the world

Fiona McLean (UK)


Link: OMNI

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