Virtual education has gained a prominent place in the field of health education and the experience of the pandemic has increased the need for countries and institutions to prioritize it. Since its official launch in 2003, the Virtual Campus for Public Health (VCPH) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been a pioneer in the development of virtual education in public health.
The VCPH was conceived as a tool for PAHO's technical cooperation, with the mission to "lead strategic collaborative efforts among Member States and other partners to promote the training of human resources for health, for all people everywhere."
Based on three key principles – the use of information and communication technologies, the principles of scientific quality and ethics, and the idea of bringing knowledge and practice closer together – the VCPH makes innovative contributions to the development of capacities for the formulation of public health policies and the performance of health systems in the Region of the Americas.
In the first decade of the 21st century, when the VCPH was created, the level of digital literacy was very low. In the last 20 years, use of the internet in Latin America and the Caribbean has grown by 2500%, accompanied by advances in the development of information and communication technologies and the growth of educational platforms.
In June 2023, the VCPH surpassed 2.4 million users and five million course enrollments. The vast majority of users are healthcare workers and students of health sciences.
All VCPH courses are open access for participants, reflecting all areas of PAHO's technical cooperation: health systems and services; life course; prevention, control, and elimination of communicable and noncommunicable diseases; mental health; health emergencies; evidence and intelligence for health action; social and environmental determinants for health equity; innovation and access to medicines and health technologies; and comprehensive immunization.
The VCPH has played a strategic role in the Organization's technical cooperation, reaching health workers quickly and directly, working in an open and interoperable manner with country nodes, and working in partnership with academic institutions, collaborating centers, and national health authorities.
During the pandemic, the VCPH played a central role in sustaining the emergency virtualization of various activities, quickly bringing information and training to health teams throughout the Americas.
Within the framework of digital transformation of health services, challenges for the future include working harder every day to reach workers in remote and underserved areas, coordinate their courses within training itineraries, and promote the recognition of their certificates (micro-credentials) as part of lifelong learning.
Technology and connectivity are transforming the way we live, work, and learn. In this context, the VCPH commemorates 20 years of bringing together knowledge and practice, promoting health workers who are trained and available to develop resilient health services.
20 years of virtual campus in public health
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) commemorated 20 years of operation of its Virtual Public Health Campus (VCPH), highlighting its fundamental contribution to virtual health education. Today, the Campus has over 2.5 million users.
"When we look back to the year 2003 and remember the launch of this pioneering platform, we don't just see a technological tool, but the birth of a vision," PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said during an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Virtual Campus.
With users from 225 countries and territories around the world, the VCPH has proven to be a strategic tool for technical cooperation, enabling rapid training of health workers. During the pandemic, it also played a central role in providing essential information to health teams throughout the Americas region.
Offering a wide range of courses on various health topics, the PAHO Director emphasized that this virtual platform has evolved from a useful online tool to an online university with internationally recognized microcertifications.
"In this era of digital transformation, technology and connectivity are changing the way we live, work, and learn. In this context, the Virtual Campus celebrates 20 years of putting knowledge into practice, promoting the development of trained healthcare workers to ensure resilient health services," added Dr. Barbosa.
All courses offered by the VCPH are freely accessible and provided in Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese, the four official languages of PAHO.
Launch of the new VCPH app
The new Virtual Campus app was also launched during the commemoration event, which will allow users to access the platform from any device, anywhere and at any time.
The app will also enable users to download resources and materials without having to connect to the Internet.
"This new app marks a milestone in our mission to bring PAHO's knowledge to those who need it, offering unprecedented flexibility and accessibility for public health education," emphasized James Fitzgerald, Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services at PAHO.
The app is available in all mobile device application stores under the name PAHO Virtual Campus.