World Health Congress 2021 Prague >> Guests

Dr. Natalia Sofia Aldana-Martinez, MD, MSc

Dr. Natalia Sofia Aldana-Martinez, MD, MSc

Editor-in-chief of the Virtual Health Library on Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine of the Americas, physician practising Acupuncture and Homeopathy.


She is a physician who practices acupuncture and homeopathy. She works like teacher of TCIM in different universities in Bogotá, Colombia. She has been working in projects of public health with TCIM, and she has also been working with indigenous communities, and traditional health knowledges. She is a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO)/WHO´s Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME), and the Editor-in-chief of the VHL TCIM Americas (Virtual Health Library on Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine of the Americas). She is also member of the TCIM Americas Network


Contribution to the Videocongress on 20 June 2020:

Transcript of the Contribution:

Good morning everyone. Thank you, Tomas, for inviting TCIM Americas Network to share our experience. We really appreciate this invitation and we also really appreciate that all these beautiful teams from different countries of the Euro region who have been developing these kinds of beautiful and interesting projects in the TCIM field. We are pleased to share our experience from the Americas region.

The Virtual Health Library

Today we want to share with you the experiences of the library of traditional complementary integrative medicine, a Virtual Health Library, which follows the Virtual Health Library BIREME model. BIREME is the Latin American and Caribbean Health Information Science Center of the Pan-American Health Organization. It was developed some 20+ years ago, and right now there are more than 134 different small health libraries in various countries in the Americas region. Some of these Virtual Health Libraries are national and some of them are dedicated to a specific theme in the health field. The Virtual Health Library is a kind of a model, a strategy, a policy, a health information management platform. It seeks to create, organize and disseminate information sources to address the needs of different actors, stakeholders, health systems, and governments. The VHL/TCIM follows this VHL model to create a specific Virtual Health Library in a specific thematic area of traditional complementary integrative medicine.

Our main objective is to promote the visibility, access, use and generation of scientific, technical and educational content in order to contribute to promoting, developing and integrating TCIM in health services and systems in the Americas region. We have our main lines of action, but we also have specific lines of action for each one of the sections that I will talk about later.

Our project’s main lines of action are to promote open access to scientific technical information and evidence regarding TCIM; to promote informed decision making using the best available knowledge and evidence in relation to TCIM; and to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration amongst the stakeholders.

The TCIM Americas Network is made up of stakeholders involved in formulating policies, regulations, trainings, promotion practices, uses and research on TCIM in the Americas region. This network was established in June of 2017 in a regional meeting in Managua, Nicaragua. The TCIM Americas Network has a variety of stakeholders from about 15 countries across the Americas region. These stakeholders include national health authorities, professional associations, research groups, providers and indigenous/Afro-American organizations. We are working to develop and expand different TCIM national networks in each country.

A Network of Networks

We believe that the TCIM Americas Network is a kind of network of networks. Each country has different stakeholders that have been working with TCIM on various levels for a long time, and we have been trying to join these various efforts made by these stakeholders. That is why it is like a kind of network, a spiderweb – we are a network of networks. One of the main stakeholders in some of our lines of our strategic plan they called academic insertion for health for Integrative Health the Collaborating Center on Traditional and Complementary Medicine of the Complementary Medicine Management of EsSalud in Peru and the National Observatory on TCIM of Brazil.

Our website is available in three languages: English, Portuguese and Spanish. We have a built-in library that offers not only a database collection, but also different sections with specific information that could be useful for health professionals and as part of decision-making. The main page has a main menu, a database search, and highlights and it displays the different sections available.

We also have specific sections for news, for events, access to evidence maps and a tool that suggests events. This database comes from different sources including international, regional and national databases. Right now, we have 1,316,000 articles, theses and technical documents, and we have also been developing a specific TCIM database, which we call Mosaico. This database attempts to index scientific and technical documents from the Americas region which are not available in our database. We are using the VHL information architecture, which was developed by BIREME and is shared by WHO’s Global Index Medicus. We have specific inclusion/exclusion criteria and a specific team of librarians working on trying to increase the number of documents.

We also have a specific section that provides information regarding the different institutions and entities that work in policy development, regulation, training, research, service, provision and also in health promotion in TCIM in various countries’ health systems. Right now we have information from 14 countries, but we expect to encourage more countries to collect and share this information and to republish it. We also have a specific section for the regulations and policies in practice, practitioners and TCIM products. There is also a menu with information regarding each country. This information is reviewed and collected by the health authorities in each country. Further, there is a section that is aligned with the PAHO/WHO Ethnicity and Health Policy and provides information about the traditional medicine of different ethnic groups, such as the indigenous peoples and the African-American population.

We have a specific section that aims to provide an understanding of TCIM and provide basic information on TCIM. Within this section, we have developed our glossary of information and a collection of different journals from each medical system as well as therapeutic methods, and we are also developing evidence maps.


We have two main sections of research. One of them is the Academic Consortium section, which is managed by Brazilian Consortium, but we expect that this initiative could expand regularly to become a Latin American Academic Consortium in integrative health. Another section, one of our favorites, is called is Strengthening Research. It tries to collect all the resources to improve and to encourage people to research TCIM more and also to improve the research capacity for health professionals.

We have a specific editorial committee for each section, and each of these committees has monthly meetings. Sometimes, we have 10 or 15 meetings a month to try to set up our policies, our lines of action, set our goals and strategic plans for each section, and finally to develop the content and to create specific projects. We have specific timelines for our actions. We work online obviously, because we are in different countries across the Americas region. We have specific planning skills, we have specific responsibilities, and each community is aligned with the objectives of the VHL TCIM.

A further section is proof of the collaborative effort between the resident academic consortium of integrity PAHO, BIREME and the TCIM America‘s Network. This section consists of a collection of various maps that we are working on and which we are developing with our research teams from different countries, although most of them are Brazilian researchers. Right now, you are able to find ten evidence maps published on the website in three languages. The VHL TCIM was launched in March 2018, and since then we have had users from various countries – not just from the Americas region, we have been visited by people from all continents and from all regions. Last week, our statistics showed that we had 133,000 page views and more or less 56,000 users from various countries. We also have a social media presence. It is not as fast or as pure as we would like it to be, but we have an Instagram account and a Facebook page.

The main idea here is that all this work during these three years has been possible thanks to the fact that a lot of people are involved. There are different stakeholders from different countries working on different levels, and each one of these institutions, each stakeholder has a common goal, which is to promote the strengths of TCIM and contribute to TCIM being implemented in the various health systems in order to help decrease certain gaps in health equity and to help to resolve certain public health issues. Our main strengths are the variety of stakeholders, the collaborators from different countries, all the collaborations which are full of solidarity, and all the technological support – because without that this project would really have been impossible. We have all the technological support of the VHL model which has been running for over twenty years. They have a lot of engineers and other librarians, and a lot of people who are working every day to improve and develop different technological tools to enable this kind of virtual library. Another of our strengths is that fact that this is a replicable model. We think that, in the future, there could be a kind of Virtual Health Library in each region and a worldwide TCIM Virtual Health Library. We know that the initiative in the Americas region right now is due to the fact, but it is for sure possible in different regions around the world. There are a lot of stakeholders that, if they start to join efforts and start to collaborate, are able to create or follow this kind of collaborative model.

Another of our strengths is that we are in alignment with PAHO/WHO strategies, that we have common goals and that we are trying to support decision makings with all the information that we are collecting.

Our challenge, because not everything is easy; this has been three years of a really, really, really hard work and each one of us has been pulling their weight as much as possible. Our challenge is to expand the TCIM Americas Network across the region, because right now we have just 15 countries and we expect that all 35 countries in the region could be involved in this project. One of the challenges for us is definitely finding the financial support. We are also considering adding a French interface, because right now we have just three languages. We think that is necessary and important to include more ethnic groups as collaborators within the team. We have already done so, but we think that is necessary to have more ethnic groups represented. We also need to strengthen our information sources, and not just the databases that are available. We need to continue communicating with each institution in each country that is producing and developing TCIM research. For example, some universities have a physical library or a virtual repository that is not generally available, and the rest of the world does not know that it exists. We know that we need to continue working with each institution to strengthen these information sources and to gather information regarding physical libraries and virtual repositories and to include all that information in the Mosaico database, in order to create a really good database that provides all the information that the Americas is producing in the TCIM field.

Then we also have all the content development within each one of our work committees. As I mentioned before, we have different sections and each section has a huge plan of action, so we have a lot of tasks ahead of us. We also want to continuously strengthen the TCIM national networks as well as enhance the research capacity in each country and in all the regions. Perhaps, with all the resources that we are developing, we could even enhance the research capacity worldwide. We want to continue developing the evidence maps, the e-learning courses, and also the open educational resources.

Our next steps are to expand TCIM Americas Network across the region; to further develop each section of the VHL, as I mentioned before; to strengthen the Mosaico database; to refine the research strategies, which we are still in the process of developing; and to continue our project work. We have developed the first stage and now we are in the second stage of reviewing TCIM terminology and DeCS terminology. That is a huge project.

I think that concludes the summary of this project. We hope our working experience in the Americas region can be useful for each of you who are listening. We believe that to achieve this kind of project, it is absolutely necessary to have common goals, but goals that help others. We are not able to accomplish anything if we are not able to work from our souls, from our hearts. And we think that the main strength of our project is the network of stakeholders, and all the efforts that each stakeholder is making in each country of the region. And, obviously, the dream we have to support TCIM among the world’s population and the health services in the best way possible. That is what we wanted to share with you.