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BMA Information Fund

The Centre for Youth Driven Development Initiatives in Uganda in 2015

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What is the Information Fund?

Operating since 2000, the BMA Information Fund has provided over 300 donations of books and other information materials to health organisations in 70 countries worldwide. Our donations span the globe, focussing on low-income countries in Africa and Asia as well as island states, which face significant health challenges.

The fund is run in association with Health Books International (operated by Practical Action Publishing, the publishing arm of the charity Practical Action). HBI sources, produces and distributes practical and accessible health information and educational materials designed for use in low-resource settings.

The materials provided by the fund are clearly written, illustrated and relevant to the many health workers worldwide who operate with limited access to electricity and reliable internet connections, sophisticated equipment or medicines.

Applications are welcomed from a wide range of not-for-profit organisations as well as new initiatives. Successful applicants will show that the requested resources are tailored to their users’ needs, will be used by a significant number of people and will have a sustained and meaningful impact.

Applications for 2019 are now closed and all successful applicants have been informed. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 Information Fund.

Please check the BMA website for details of the Information Fund in September 2020, when we hope to run the fund again.

What you need to know

  • How to apply

    Applications for 2019 are now closed and all successful applicants have been informed. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 Information Fund.

    Please check the BMA website for details of the Information Fund in September 2020, when we hope to run the fund again.

    Who can apply?

    The following organisations can apply: 

    • healthcare institutions 
    • medical schools 
    • libraries 
    • health-focused non-governmental organisations and similar 
    • human rights and community development organisations involved in local capacity-building. 

    Please note, we are not able to respond to requests from individuals. 

    What is the deadline?

    The deadline for receipt of applications was Friday 8 November 2019.

    Applicants will find out if they have been successful by 20 December 2019 (this date may change depending on the volume of applications we receive, so please check back regularly).

    Materials will be dispatched to successful applicants from January 2020.

  • 5 years supporting African Hospital Libraries

    Oxford GPs Claire and Alex Blacklock founded the charity African Hospital Libraries (AHL) in 2012 after volunteering as doctors in Sierra Leone. Working alongside local clinicians in the Makeni Government Hospital, they found that staff had very limited access to health information, contributing to variations in the quality of clinical care delivered to patients.

    AHL’s vision is to facilitate access to clear, relevant, up-to-date, life-saving health information for all clinicians, regardless of geographical location, reliable electricity supply, or technology. Today, AHL has established three libraries in Sierra Leone, which operate as a network across different cultural areas, in cities with different levels of infrastructure development.

    “The potential for high-quality healthcare libraries in sub-Saharan Africa to inform, empower and promote change, has been underestimated and neglected.” – Dr Claire Blacklock

    The first AHL library opened in Sierra Leone in 2013 at Makeni Government Hospital, a referral hospital of 208 beds serving the Northern provincial area. Before the library opened, access to reliable, relevant and up-to-date health information for the 230 healthcare workers and students on rotation was not available.

    Losing no time, Dr Claire Blacklock applied to the BMA Information Fund in 2013 for donations to establish a second library at Bo Government Hospital, the referral hospital for the Southern provincial region comprising 302 beds and 547 staff.

    “There is no [other] library in these entire townships that has this kind of medical texts.” - Community Health Officer and Surgical Trainee, Bo.

    Bo Hospital Library; L-R: Mr Momoh, library coordinator, and Alex Marrah, librarian

    In 2015, the BMA Information Fund donated books and other educational materials to an affiliated library at the Makeni School of Clinical Sciences and in 2016 updated the collection at Bo. In 2017, the fund provided core texts for a new library at Kenema Government Hospital, the Eastern provincial referral hospital with 360 beds and 700 staff, plus clinical students on rotation. The new Kenema Hospital Library was opened in July 2018 and is already making an impact. 

    The AHL libraries are a source of pride for the hospitals and borrowing data show that library resources are well used by staff and healthcare students. Case studies and feedback from a recent evaluation also indicate there has been a positive impact on patient care. 

    "All the references we are making now would not be possible without the library…the library in the hospital I think it goes a long way in improving our knowledge and also patient care." - Nurse Anaesthetist, Makeni.

  • A history of funding books for life

    Terry John, BMA international committee chair
Taken May 2017

    The BMA Information Fund allows doctors, medical students and healthcare organisations in low income countries access to educational resources that they would never be able to afford otherwise.

    "We know that thousands of people die needlessly every day, often because health workers do not know what to do or where to seek help" - Terry John, BMA international committee chair

    Books can mean the difference between life and death for people in developing countries. Tens of thousands of people die every day because their healthcare workers lack the information to make appropriate decisions about their care, say campaigners for better health resources.

    BMA international committee chair Terry John says (pictured): "With a modest budget, the BMA Information Fund helps to stop this shocking waste of life by putting accurate health information into the hands of healthcare providers — proving that a little goes a very long way."

  • Previous initiatives

    Sustainable local healthcare in Zimbabwe (2016)

    Professor Sunanda Ray with colleagues at the College of Primary Health Care Physicians in Zimbabwe in 2016

    Professor Sunanda Ray pictured above with CPHCPZ colleagues

    Books provided by the 2016 BMA Information Fund were used to develop course outlines and training content for a postgraduate training in Family Medicine in Zimbabwe.

    The College of Primary Health Care Physicians in Zimbabwe (CPHCPZ), the nation's professional association for primary care doctors, applied to the fund requesting texts needed to set up the programme, which started training its first students in August 2017. Students on the training programme will use the books as their core course material.

    Zimbabwe has a large rural population and most healthcare is delivered in district hospitals. The majority of medical staff there have only 2 years of post-qualification experience (equivalent to the foundation years in the UK).

    'They have the least training to deal with the health needs of the majority of the population,' Professor Sunanda Ray said.

    'The Family Medicine training program will be based at district hospitals, where there are very few learning resources. The materials provided by the Information Fund will be crucial for self-directed learning, allowing students and trainees to look things up during their clinical work and while doing practical procedures,' She said.

    CDs and DVDs will be a particularly helpful resource once the programme is underway because the material can easily be accessed remotely.


    Where there is no doctor (2016)

    Dr Pauline Hutchinson, who is based in Cheshire, applied to the BMA Information Fund in 2016 to source materials for the Wellspring Children's Medical Centre, a paediatric healthcare facility in rural South West Uganda.

    The Medical Centre is staffed by a small interdisciplinary team of nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, social workers and support staff – no doctors are employed. Medical support comes from senior doctors in the region and volunteer groups organised by Dr Hutchinson.

    Wellspring provides health and social care to over 15,000 sick, vulnerable and deprived children in the region each year.

    Information Fund beneficiaries, staff from the Wellspring Children’s Medical Centre in South West Uganda in 2016'The staff were thrilled with the books and amazed at the quality and variety provided. You can imagine they are always very busy, but I have found that they are never too busy to learn.

    'The staff conduct monthly educational seminars to promote medical education and shared learning, and the books' use is encouraged during all CPD courses and seminars,' Dr Hutchinson said.

    Funding for the Centre comes solely from charitable contributions provided through the UK-based charity Medcare. In 2014 the Medical Centre was refurbished and significantly increase in size, but due to funding limitations no books had been added since 2010.

    Before applying to the Information Fund, the Centre had around 30 books, some dating back to the 1980s.

    'Internet access is very limited and so books, DVD's and CD's are invaluable to the health care staff to aid learning. The books provided by the BMA will certainly assist them in caring for the needy children of Uganda.'


    'The donation was perfect' (2013)

    Images for accordion tabs, Bo Library 

    Oxford GP Claire Blacklock applied to the 201 BMA Information Fund to help plug a gap in educational materials in Sierra Leone.

    She set up the library in the city of Bo after establishing another in Makeni while volunteering there during 2012/13 with her husband, Alex, also a GP.

    They spotted a need for educational resources for local healthcare workers on, for example, prescribing medication for malaria.Images for accordion tabs, Bo Library

    The Bo Government Hospital/School of Community Health Science Library now has more than 300 medical, management and fiction titles, with their core medical texts coming via a donation from the fund.

    ‘The donation from the BMA was perfect. It enabled us to buy the core texts and then we added to that with some other texts through private donations,’ Dr Blacklock said.

    ‘The fund makes sure that the donated books are useful, up-to-date and in an accessible format, rather than having books that are just people’s junk. That is not useful in Sierra Leone, or the UK.’

    So far, the library has 96 registered members and 74 items have been borrowed since it opened in February this year. However, often people read the books in the library itself.

    Dr Blacklock is returning to Bo next month to conduct a formal evaluation and appraise the librarian.

    ‘We don’t yet know how it’s affecting clinical practice and we would like to assess this,’ she said.


    Resourcing Congo communities (2012)

    Information Fund beneficiaries, staff from Service Medical in the Congo in 2012

    Service Medical, in the Diocese of Aru (pictured above), was among the recipients of the 2012 round of funding from the BMA Information Fund.

    The resources helped Congo communities by providing schools with material on HIV, a nursing college and health centres with learning aids, and also information for health slots on local radio stations.

    BMA international committee chair Terry John said: 'The BMA is pleased to be able to support a number of deserving health-related organisations in developing countries with donations of essential health educational materials.'


    Self-discovery of sexual and reproductive health rights in Pakistan (2011)

    Books from the 2011 fund were also donated to PFP (Peace Foundation Pakistan).

    The organisation works in sexual and reproductive health rights and advocacy, and is using the up-to-date information from the books in seminars, workshops and meetings. Books on first aid have also been popular with students at the local high school.

    Farzana Qamar, a counsellor with the foundation's safe medical abortion project, says illiterate women have learned more about their bodies and health through the illustrated books donated by the fund.

    PFP director Zarina Balaoch adds that the books on pharmacy and first aid have been useful for health workers in rural areas, where there are few doctors or pharmacists.

    Ms Balaoch says: 'People rely on folk medicines [in rural areas]. Sometimes they become victims of more dangerous diseases. Where There Are No Pharmacists is a good book...for all health workers.'

    A book on making health services more women-friendly is to be translated into Sindhi to allow more people to benefit from it.

    'We have limited resources, so we could not buy books and journals of international standards,' it says. 'There are so many...informative and useful websites, but they [demand] money. It is very difficult for a medium-sized non-governmental organisation to meet expenses. We found [the BMA] a supportive organisation for this purpose.'


    Training health workers in Mbale (2011)

    The beneficiaries of the 2011 round include the Health Manpower Development Centre in Mbale, eastern Uganda. It is run by the country's Ministry of Health, and is responsible for healthcare workers' training needs.

    Information Fund beneficiaries, Health Manpower Development Centre in Mbale, eastern Uganda in 2011It received books and educational material, which are now used by a wide variety of staff and students, including those of regional hospitals, district health centres, and hygiene and nursing schools. They are also used by distance learners.

    The materials are kept in the library of the development centre, and are used by around 20 people each day (pictured right).

    Faustine Maiso, a Ugandan doctor who has worked for the World Health Organisation and the Uganda Human Rights Commission, made the centre's application to the fund. He is very grateful for the fund's support.

    'The materials we received were up to date and relevant for training and educational development of health workers in Uganda,' he says. 'They are written in simple English, which is easy to understand. The CDs are more relevant to our department of training.

    'However, we have faced some challenges, especially in rationing the books. It is difficult for books to be lent out, [especially] to health training officers in nearby institutions.'

    'The materials we received were up to date and relevant for training and educational development of health workers in Uganda'

    Dr Maiso says the more useful resources are those on managing complications in pregnancy and childbirth, public health, and diagnosis and treatment. The materials were so helpful to health care work in Uganda that he has applied to the fund again this year.

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