Lancet Commission: The legal determinants of health - Empowerment of individuals with the healthcare information they need

10 May, 2019

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I was interested to see the latest Lancet Commission: The legal determinants of health: harnessing the power of law for global health and sustainable development, in the 4 May issue of the print journal.

1. You can access all 53 pages here:

2. A comment by Selina Lo and Lancet editor Richard Horton notes: The Commission makes key recommendations, particularly pertinent to WHO and governments. Recommendations include that governments and the global health community work to create legal frameworks towards good governance of national health systems and global institutions, and towards rights-based universal health coverage through mechanisms such as a constitutional or statutory right to health.

3. A second comment by Carmel Williams and Paul Hunt says: Having expertly laid this comprehensive foundation for the bridge between law and health, we now ask the Commission, what next? How do health workers and actors in global health take all this information and use it? We recommend a deeper and integrated use of human rights.

4. From a HIFA perspective, I would ask: Why does the Commission ignore the critical issue of empowerment of individuals with the healthcare information they need to protect their own health and the health of those for whom they are responsible?

From 2008-2012, HIFA collaborated with the New York Law School to evaluate access to healthcare information under international human rights law. The findings were published in December 2012 as a White Paper: Access to Health Information Under International Human Rights Law. The paper considers whether and, if so, to what extent states are obligated under international treaty law to provide individuals, lay healthcare providers, professional healthcare providers, and policymakers with appropriate health information. It concludes that health information is an essential component of many identified and established human rights. States party to treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have a legal obligation under International Human Rights Law to progressively meet the healthcare information needs of all citizens.

For me, this White Paper is an important milestone and one of our / HIFA's greatest achievements. It provides a compelling basis for our advocacy work to promote the availability and use of healthcare information.

Any discussion of the right to health should include the question of how to empower individuals with the healthcare information they need to protect their own health and the health of those for whom they are responsible. There is no health without adequate access to reliable, practical healthcare information.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: