Access to reliable healthcare information is (or should be) a human right: Do you agree or disagree? (6)

6 June, 2023

HIFA colleagues

It may help the discussion on this to give a bit of background. For a number of reasons it seems timely for advocating for a step change in recognition of access to reliable health information as being a human right. (Reasons include the ever-growing evidence-base of the value of healthcare information, its role in the progressing Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the need to counter the rising tide of mis- and dis-information, highlighted during the Covid pandemic) .

A human right to health has already (in 1966) been recognised by the UN. Further the relevant UN Economic and Social Council Committee commented (in 2000) that the right to health is an inclusive right that extends to the underlying determinants of health, and that access to health information is one such determinant. (See the 2012 New York Law School /HIFA paper Access to Health Information Under International Human Rights Law ( for the references to these resolutions and notes. )

All this was confirmed (and amplified) in 2008 in the UN/WHO Factsheet 31 on The Right to Health ( ) , which “ aims to shed light on the right to health in international human rights law as it currently stands, amidst the plethora of initiatives and proposals as to what the right to health may or should be.”

The recent paper from WHO to which I referred to in an earlier post to the forum “Universal health information is essential for universal health coverage” ( ) shows strong current WHO support related to this issue.

A key question that arises now, I think, is whether and how that useful foundation of UN/WHO resolutions and statements should be developed into a UN/WHO declaration that access to reliable health information is itself a human right, with an associated call for international action to achieve this.


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 main HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA working group on Evaluating the Impact of Healthcare Information. geoff.royston AT