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Supercourse Online

“Supercourse presents enormous advantages for all those who want to learn about healthcare throughout the world. The system is priceless, particularly for those in the developing nations, who have difficulty is gaining access to up-to-date relevant information.”

This project is much in keeping with the ‘Nightingale Declaration’ to share “information and solutions to resolve problems and improve conditions — locally, nationally and globally — in order to achieve health for all humanity.”

Photo Source: WHO Collaborating Center at the University of Pittsburgh

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A global repository of lectures on public health and prevention, entitled "Supercourse," designed for educators across the world, is now on-line. Produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center at the University of Pittsburgh, it has a vast network of over 55000 scientists in 174 countries, who share a free on-line library on healthcare, comprising of 3611 lectures in 26 languages.

Supercourse is premised on the notion that improving access to qualitative health information is a powerful strategy for improving global health and science teaching and research.

The initiative draws on a networking strategy to increase access to academic information using information and communication technologies (ICTs). The global network is entirely based on the open source information technology, which is rapidly spreading across the world. In general, open source refers to any programme, whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed through public collaboration and made freely available.

Speaking to nightingaledeclaration.net, Dionne Sinclair, Acting Manager for Quality Improvement at Canada's Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, said: "Supercourse presents enormous advantages for all those, who want to learn about healthcare throughout the world. The system is priceless, particularly for those in the developing nations, who have difficulty is gaining access to up-to-date relevant information."

Specifically, Supercourse is an information sharing and open source model. The global academic faculty share what they consider their best lectures in the area of public health on the internet. Experienced faculty members constantly revise lectures to bring them in line with new thinking. With quick and immediate access to information through the internet, education can reduce time taken to prepare lectures. Faculties in developing countries can now gain access to current scientific information that they would not otherwise have.

The network organizers have also sought to create lectures quickly specifically in response to major disasters and emergencies. They identify a "lecture of the week" to help draw attention to particular lectures  on topical issues.

The global network is facilitated by the Global Health Network (GHNet), which includes faculty members in the world of health academia,  who provide, review, and, where required, translate the Supercourse lectures.

To ensure as broad access to the lectures as possible, the network has established 45 Supercourse mirrored servers in medical, dental, veterinary, nursing, and public health schools around the world, as well as distributed 20,000 Supercourse CDs -- free of charge.

An effort has been made to increase presentation speed through the development of small-sized files for the benefit of users from developing countries who have low-bandwidth internet connections. For the benefit of those who do not have easy access to scientific information beyond lecture material, online textbooks have been provided by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Organisers are also in the process of creating "legacy lectures", which are "the best of the best"; the goal is to archive them in 170 national libraries around the world. Another work in progress includes the building of schools of public health worldwide: Scientists from 26 nations are working to establish small, mini-certificate-granting courses.

Entertainment strategies are another component of Supercourse. Organisers have developed a hypertext comic book that translates the lectures into a web-based, icon-driven format with graphic presentation and text that allows students to access more information through hyperlinks. For more information, go to: http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/assist/comics.htm

In an effort to increase awareness about Supercourse, GHNet has published over 170 papers in medical journals including the Science, Nature, Lancet, British Medical Journal, and Nature Medicine, among others.

Supercourse was originally funded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Library of Medicine.

Supercourse can be obtained here: http://www.pitt.edu/~super1/

Ronald E. LaPorte
Disease Monitoring and Telecommunications
WHO Collaborating Center
Professor of Epidemiology
Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15261 USA
[email protected]


Akira Sekikawa
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
[email protected]


Deborah J. Aaron,
Assistant Professor of Education
[email protected]

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In 2008 & 2009, Asoka Roy’s family created a Platinum Sponsorship of the Nightingale Declaration Campaign to honor the memory of their sister — a pioneering nurse & midwife in both India & the United States. Projects developed from this contribution included an India-wide outreach of the Nightingale Declaration dedicated to Asoka’s memory.
See: An Indian Nightingale
Generous Support of Drs. Rustum & Della Roy