Global health network available in Canada thanks to U of Ottawa

Canadians are now able to research their health questions through a global online health network with a little help from the University of Ottawa.

Canadians are now able to research their health questions through a global online health network, thanks to a licensing agreement signed by the Canadian Cochrane Centre in Ottawa.

The Canadian Cochrane Centre operates out of the University of Ottawa and has been contributing information to the Cochrane Library, an international collection of databases, since 1993.

Up until now, the information in that library has only been made available to Canadians through the few libraries and educational institutions across Canada that have chosen to pay for subscriptions.

The Cochrane Library allows users search its databases when they're trying to make decisions about health care — whether they're health-care professionals or patients.

The information the databases offer comes from around the world in the form of medical reviews, technology assessments, economic evaluations and details about clinical trials.

The Ottawa centre's new agreement, launched Wednesday, means that Canadians will now have free access to the library no matter where they are.

"If you were a nurse working in northern Ontario, you didn't have easy access to Cochrane," said Jeremy Grimshaw, the director of the Canadian Cochrane Network and Centre.

Making the information available to internet users is an important step, he said, but making sure people with health questions have access to the internet will also play a factor in the network's success.

"There is a digital divide, and there are some citizens who don't have easy access to the internet," he said. "Hopefully, over time, that will change, but I think the vast majority of Canadians through their home, their workplace, through the library system should be able to access Cochrane."

The CCNC is one of 13 independent, not-for-profit centres around the world that contribute information to the library.

At the moment, the licensing agreement is only a pilot project, said Grimshaw. He hopes both Canadian residents and health practitioners will make enough use of the library to keep the project going.