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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


MACIAS-CHAPULA, César A.. Toward a model of communications in public health in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.18, n.6, pp.427-438. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: So far, there have been no bibliometric or scientometric studies that make it possible to examine, with quantitative, retrospective, and comprehensive criteria, the scientific output on public health in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Further, the weakness of the existing information systems makes it impossible to examine the relevance, quality, and impact of this scientific output, with a view to evaluating it in terms of societal needs and existing patterns of scientific communication. This article presents the results of a bibliographic analysis of the scientific output in the area of public health in Latin America and the Caribbean. The ultimate goal of the analysis is to build a model of scientific communication in this field, to help researchers, managers, and others working in the area of public health to make decisions and choose actions to take. METHODS: We conducted a literature review in order to identify the distribution of publications on public health that were produced by LAC researchers and published in each of the LAC countries from 1980 through 2002. The review used the Literatura Latino-Americana e do Caribe em Saúde Pública (LILACS-SP) (Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Public Health) bibliographic database. That database is operated by the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME), which is in São Paulo, Brazil. We processed the LILACS-SP data using two software packages, Microsoft Excel and Bibexcel, to obtain indicators of the scientific output, the type of document, the language, the number of authors for each publication, the thematic content, and the participating institutions. For the 1980-2002 period, there were 97 605 publications registered, from a total of 37 LAC countries. RESULTS: For the analysis presented in this article, we limited the sample to the 8 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that had at least 3 000 documents each registered in the LILACS-SP database over the 1980-2002 study period. In descending order of the number of publications registered, the 8 nations were: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Those 8 countries were responsible for 83 054 publications (85.10% of the total of 97 605 registered documents produced by the 37 LAC countries). Of those 83 054 publications from the 8 countries, 56 253 of them (67.73%) were articles published in scientific journals and 24 488 were monographs (29.48%). The proportion of works produced by two or more coauthors was relatively high (56.48%). The 56 253 articles appeared in a total of 929 different journals. Of the 929 journals, 91 of them published at least 150 articles over the study period. In descending order, LAC journals with the largest number of articles on public health were: Revista de Saúde Pública (Brazil); Cadernos de Saúde Pública (Brazil); Revista Médica de Chile; Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición (Venezuela); and Salud Pública de México. The 91 journals that published at least 150 articles represented 29 different specialties. The most common of the specialties for the 91 journals were general medicine (18 journals) and pediatrics (10 journals). In descending order, the populations that the publications dealt with primarily were human beings in general, females, males, and adults; and, in descending order, a relatively small number of publications dealt with pregnant women and middle-aged or elderly persons. The topics most often covered in the publications were risk factors, health policy, and primary health care, as well as family doctors in the case of Cuba. CONCLUSIONS: This research produced a preliminary model of communications in public health in LAC countries that will hopefully help lay the groundwork for further research to develop a model of scientific communication in LAC nations.

Keywords : Public health; research; publications; periodicals; bibliometrics; Latin America; Caribbean region.

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