Call for examples of impact of access to essential healthcare information on Sustainable Development Goal health target areas

28 April, 2019

Dear HIFA members

You will be aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Health (SDG3) and its associated targets, which include achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030 (SDG3.8). I am coordinating the preparation for the HIFA Steering Group of an article for publication arguing that universal access to essential healthcare information is a prerequisite for UHC, that it is increasingly feasible to provide this (e.g. because of advances in communication technology), and that its potential to accelerate progress toward UHC and other SDG health targets should be recognised and acted upon.

To develop this article we need some additional compelling examples from different countries of the impact that access to essential healthcare information can make. They should demonstrate how access to and use of essential healthcare information by citizens, carers or frontline health workers has contributed to improved health, or how it has enhanced health-related behaviour, or has assisted in the more effective or more equitable use of health services. (We would also be interested in examples of how the lack of such information, or indeed the presence of misinformation, has impeded these.)

Examples could illustrate any area covered by the SDG health targets, particularly: maternal mortality; neonatal and under-five mortality; AIDS; tuberculosis; malaria; hepatitis; water-borne diseases; non-communicable diseases; mental health; substance abuse; road traffic accidents; and sexual and reproductive health.

We already have garnered some examples involving mobile phones e.g.

Perinatal mortality: Lund S, Rasch V, Hemed M, et al. Mobile phone intervention reduces perinatal mortality in Zanzibar: secondary outcomes of a cluster randomized controlled trial. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2014;2(1):e15.

Malaria: Zurovac D, Sudoi RK, Akhwale WS, et al. The effect of mobile phone text-message reminders on Kenyan health workers' adherence to malaria treatment guidelines: a cluster randomised trial. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):795–803.

Tobacco use: Gopinathan P, Kaur J, Joshi S, et al Self-reported quit rates and quit attempts among subscribers of a mobile text messaging-based tobacco cessation programme in India BMJ Innovations 2018;4:147-154.

And a few involving other media, such as radio broadcasts, e.g.

Perinatal mortality: Murray J, Head R, Sarrassat S, et al. Modelling the effect of a mass radio campaign on child mortality using facility utilisation data and the Lives Saved Tool (LiST): findings from a cluster randomised trial in Burkina Faso. BMJ Glob Health 2018;3:e000808

or more traditional book-based education e.g.

Road-accidents: El-Sharkasy M H, Shenouda M S and El-Sheikh, E I; Impact of First Aid Training Program for Car Drivers about Road Traffic Injuries in Port Said Med. J. Cairo Univ., Vol. 83, No. 2, December: 135-143, 2015

But we need more (for instance ones relating to use of well-known sources like Where There Is No Doctor). Examples should have been published in some form (not necessarily in academic journals, though examples of rigorous studies that have entailed comparison with a control group would be particularly useful.) If you know, directly or indirectly, of such an example (or examples) please reply on the HIFA forum (or contact me directly) with a reference to where details can be found, before May 15th. Thank you.


HIFA Profile: Geoff Royston is an Independent Health Analyst and Researcher, former Head of Strategic Analysis and Operational Research in the Department of Health for England, and Past President of the UK Operational Research Society. His work has focused on informing the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes in health and social care, and on fostering the capabilities of others to work in these areas. Associated activities have included modelling for understanding the performance of complex systems, analysis and communication of risk, and horizon scanning and futures thinking. He has also worked on information and communication technology in the health sector, notably in leading the design and national launch of the telephone and online health information and advice service NHS Direct. He has served on both scientific and medical UK Research Council panels, and as an impact assessor for the UK higher education Research Excellence Framework. He is a member of the editorial board for the journal Health Care Management Science and in 2012 was Guest Editor for its special issue on Global Health. He has been a consultant for the World Health Organisation, is a long standing member of the EURO Working Group on Operational Research Applied to Health Services, and is an expert adviser to the mHIFA (mobile Healthcare Information for All) programme. He is also a member of the HIFA working group on Evaluating the Impact of Healthcare Information.

Email: geoff.royston AT