Does the coronavirus outbreak highlight the importance of timely access to quality health information? What role can HIFA & its members play?

12 February, 2020

Dear Neil & colleagues,

Yesterday, Dr Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, was quoted as saying "To defeat this outbreak, we need open and equitable sharing, according to the principles of fairness and equity." [

To me these words seem to align closely with HIFA's aims in relation to health information.

With regard to Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) (and other similar situations), my own view is that there are at least four main levels at which timely and free access to reliable health information is vital:

- Clinicians/healthcare workers need to have easy access to latest guidelines on diagnosis, treatment/management for patients, and access to advice they need to give to their patients - those affected and those unaffected - on prevention/transmission/prognosis. They also need clear guidance on how to protect themselves.

- Researchers need to have free and easy access to latest research; they also need to have easy ways to share their findings (i.e. not pay for publication).

- The public - in areas affected and unaffected - need to have access to clear and up-to-date information on the disease, its transmission etc.

In these days of social media my personal observation is that people want something that they can share with friends and family. In an absence of easy-to-share visuals or short animations, it seems that people resort to sending what they can find, and often that can lead to misinformation. (In general, the public also need guidance on how to distinguish reliable and non reliable sources of information.)

Also, what role can journalists play?

- Healthcare information providers need to know how to access these different sources of information.

What are your views? Have I left anything out?

What has been your experience?

What role can HIFA play?

Best wishes


HIFA Profile: Julie N Reza is a UK-based specialist in communications for biosciences, global health & international development ( She predominantly works with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations. Previously she was the senior science editor at TDR, based at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva; prior to this she worked at the Wellcome Trust, UK, leading educational projects on international health topics including trypanosomiasis and trachoma. She has a PhD in immunology and a specialist degree in science communication. She also has several years research and postgraduate teaching experience. She is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and HIFA Social Media Working Group.

Email: naimareza AT