Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 468, Issue 10, pp 2598–2603

Low-income Countries’ Orthopaedic Information Needs: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Kathryn Doughty
  • Linda Rothman
  • Luke Johnston
  • Kim Le
  • Joanna Wu
  • Andrew Howard
Symposium: ABJS Carl T. Brighton Workshop on Health Informatics

DOI: 10.1007/s11999-010-1365-x

Cite this article as:
Doughty, K., Rothman, L., Johnston, L. et al. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2010) 468: 2598. doi:10.1007/s11999-010-1365-x



The Internet should, in theory, facilitate access to peer-reviewed scientific articles for orthopaedic surgeons in low-income countries (LIC). However, there are major barriers to access, and most full-text journal articles are available only on a subscription basis, which many in LIC cannot afford. Various models exist to remove such barriers. We set out to examine the potential, and reality, of journal article access for surgeons in LIC by studying readership patterns and journal access through a number of Internet-based initiatives, including an open access journal (“PLoS Medicine”), and programs from the University of Toronto (The Ptolemy Project) and World Health Organization (WHO) (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative [HINARI]).


Do Internet-based initiatives that focus on peer-reviewed journal articles deliver clinically relevant information to those who need it? More specifically: (1) Can the WHO’s program meet the information needs of practicing surgeons in Africa? (2) Are healthcare workers across the globe aware of, and using, open access journals in a manner that reflects global burden of disease (GBD)?


We compared actual Ptolemy use to HINARI holdings. We also compared “PLoS Medicine” readership patterns among low-, middle-, and high-income regions.


Many of the electronic resources used through Ptolemy are not available through HINARI. In contrast to higher-income regions, “PLoS Medicine” readership in Africa is proportional to both the density of healthcare workers and the GBD there.


Free or low-cost Internet-based initiatives can improve access to the medical literature in LIC. Open access journals are a key component to providing clinically relevant literature to the regions and healthcare workers who need it most.

Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Doughty
    • 1
  • Linda Rothman
    • 2
  • Luke Johnston
    • 3
  • Kim Le
    • 4
  • Joanna Wu
    • 5
  • Andrew Howard
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Paediatric Orthopaedic SurgeryHospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Child Health Evaluative Sciences (CHES)Hospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada
  3. 3.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  4. 4.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Health SciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  6. 6.Office of International SurgeryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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