"Information -­ perhaps the only instrument that can close the gap between the world that is and the world that might be"

22 May, 2020

Dear All,

This morning I read in the autobiography of George Alleyne a paragraph that I immediately wanted to share with all the members of HIFA.

For those who don’t know him, George is one of the great health leaders of the past 50 years. He has held many important leadership roles, but perhaps the most important was director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) from 1995 to 2003.

The paragraph below comes from the speech he made following his election to be the director of PAHO in September 1994.

“I have for a long time been gripped by a vision of a world in which there is no “otherness” in health. We may accept differences in physical characteristics - we may accept differences in ideologies - but in a very real sense, in the case of health there should be no “others”, because we are indeed one, bound together by ties that go beyond our biology. For that vision to be realized, we will have to use well that most powerful of modem instruments - information - perhaps the only instrument that can close the gap between the world that is and the world that might be - the only instrument that can relieve the ignorance of many of our people who pay the cost of that ignorance in the coin of ill health and suffering. In this world that might be or will be, our citizens will truly see that health is for living and agitate that they be allowed to live in the fullest sense of the word.”

His autobiography is called “The Grooming of a Chancellor” and is available on Amazon.

Best wishes





HIFA profile: Richard Smith is chair of the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death, the Point of Care Foundation (which works to make health care more humane), and Patients Know Best, a company that gives patients control of their health and social care records. He was previously editor of the BMJ and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group, chair of icddr,b (formerly International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh), and director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, a programme with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to create centres in low and middle income countries to conduct research and build capacity in relation to NCD. He blogs regularly for the BMJ and on his own website (https://richardswsmith.wordpress.com). richardswsmith AT yahoo.co.uk