Internet Supercourse new paradigm in 21st century global health odyssey towards tele-preventive medicine

Heidelberg 21 September 1999What on earth do John Kennedy and Rocky have to do with Internet quality training courses for disease prevention? At MedNet'99, Dr. Ron LaPorte, Professor for Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health, held a supercourse on information dominance to rule out as far as possible the morbidity risks on a global scale. The Global Health Network unites experts in health and telecommunications to improve the health of populations by gathering information on epidemiology. Since accurate knowledge enhances power, Dr. LaPorte has developed the concept of supercourses which consists in the manufacturing, sharing, distribution, and personalised adoption of passionate lectures via the Internet by local teachers. Passion in education and training may form the key to various scenarios for the prevention of disease.


Professor LaPorte invited the MedNet audience to a fascinating odyssey into the world of future global health through prevention. If we are willing to share our information, we will be able to change the life expectancy dramatically. The current information revolution coupled with the notion of prevention will have a profound effect on the global health status, taken into account that the mortality curve has dropped more rapidly in the past forty years than in the last 4000 ones. Within the Global Health Network, Dr. Ron LaPorte collaborates with representatives from the World Bank Group, IBM, NASA, AT&T, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The basic idea of this alliance is to generate a marriage between two recently emerged concepts in health care management being tele-preventive medicine and telemedicine. The first involves inexpensive low bandwidth information transfer to reach large numbers of well people to prevent disease whereas the latter implies expensive high bandwidth data transmission to help only small numbers of sick people cure disease. The dream of uniting both will create a new synthesis of telehealth. Morbidity causes tend to become homogeneous in all countries, even in the developing ones, as Dr. LaPorte believes. Without prevention, we are bound to face a tremendous increase in costs, mainly due to the increased lifetime of people in old age.

If we can locate the regions where disease occurs, and accurately monitor its movements to model different scenarios for prevention, we are able to reduce the risk of wrong decisions through our information dominance umbrella, in the same way as we had the nuclear umbrella during the cold war. However, we still know too little about disease and urgently need to change the culture of training, according to Professor LaPorte. Because the future generation of doctors will be very familiar with the use of the Internet, the supercourse has been developed to share a library of quality controlled lectures from teachers all over the world. This revolutionary paradigm enables every local trainer to transmute somebody else's lecture through his own person in order to enrich his own teaching.

Less experienced teachers can benefit from the exemplary styles of training and improve their own lectures on Professor LaPorte's educational quality scale from horrendous or Rocky-like, over slightly boring, to interesting and even change-your-life or Kennedy-like presentations. The shareware lectures are made available through the Web. Open standards are applied as well as copy left systems to guarantee the freedom of use. All these lectures are peer reviewed with a system based on the W. Edwards Deming norms for quality assurance, and are constantly being evaluated by their different users. The supercourses are multi-lingual and icon-driven. Hypertext and mirroring form indispensable tools to create a high speed of knowledge transfer. If you like to turn yourself into a superteacher, please have a look at the Supercourse home page.

Leslie Versweyveld

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