Why HIFA is needed

Every day, tens of thousands of children and adults die needlessly for want of simple, low-cost interventions – interventions that are often locally available but simply not provided in time. A major contributing factor is that the mother, family caregiver or health worker does not have access to the information and knowledge they need, when they need it, to make appropriate decisions and save lives.

Lack of healthcare information leads to death and suffering 


“It is a shameful fact that people are still dying because their healthcare workers don’t have access to the information they need.” Virginia Barbour, Editor-in-Chief, PLoS Medicine, 2011


The studies suggest a gross lack of knowledge about the basics on how to diagnose and manage common diseases, going right across the health workforce and often associated with suboptimal, ineffective and dangerous health care practices [indicating] that modern medicine, even at a basic level, has largely failed the majority of the world's population.” Pakenham-Walsh N & Bukachi F 2009


Examples: Child health


  • Every child with acute diarrhoea should receive increased fluids to prevent death from dehydration. However, many parents continue to believe children should receive less to drink than normal. In India, for example, almost 4 in 10 children with acute diarrhoea receive less to drink than normal, thereby tragically increasing their risk of death. Furthermore, more than 1 in 3 children with diarrhoea seen by a health worker are inappropriately given antibiotics, which are not recommended for childhood diarrhoea (except in special circumstances).  Basic errors in  care contribute to a thousand child deaths from diarrhoea every day in India alone. [1]
  • 8 in 10 caregivers in developing countries do not know the two key symptoms of childhood pneumonia - fast and difficult breathing - which indicate the need for urgent treatment (only 1 in 3 children with pneumonia receive antibiotics - despite wide availability - and 1.6 million consequently die each year) [2,3]
  • 7 in 10 doctors caring for sick children in district hospitals</strong> in Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines, Tanzania, and Uganda had poor basic knowledge of leading causes of child death such as childhood pneumonia, severe malnutrition, and sepsis. [4]
  • 7 in 10 children with malaria treated at home are mismanaged, contributing to 2000 deaths every day in Africa alone. [5]

Examples: Adult health

  • 4 in 10 family doctors in Pakistan prescribed tranquilisers as first-line treatment for hypertension. [6]

  • 7 in 10 women giving birth in health facilities in Africa and South Asia were mismanaged during the 3rd stage of labour, predisposing them to postpartum haemorrhage. PPH kills more than 300 young women every day in the developing world. [7]

  • More than 9 in 10 prescriptions for tuberculosis in India are incorrect, predisposing those patients and the general population to multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in the future. [8]

Importantly, this situation is not the fault of healthcare providers. Healthcare providers can only function effectively if their basic needs are met, including access to healthcare information.


[1] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India. National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) 2005/6

[2] Wardlaw T et al. Pneumonia: the leading killer of children. Lancet 2006;368:1048-50

[3] UNICEF. State of the World's Children 2012.

[4] Nolan T et al. Quality of hospital care for seriously ill children in less-developed countries. Lancet 2001;357(9250):106-10

[5] Mozumder P & Marathe A. Role of information and communication networks in malaria survival. Malaria Journal 2007;6:136

[6] Jafar TH et al. General practitioners’ approach to hypertension in urban Pakistan: disturbing trends in practice. Circulation 2005;111(10):1278-83

[7] Stanton C et al. Use of active management of the third stage of labour in seven developing countries. WHO Bulletin 2009;87:207-215

[8] Mishra G et al. Tuberculosis Prescription Practices In Private And Public Sector In India. National Journal of Integrated Research in Medicine 2013; 4(2): 71-78

Further reading