Access to reliable healthcare information is (or should be) a human right: Do you agree or disagree? (12) The importance of reliable healthcare information for those without access to basic health services

16 June, 2023

Dear Najeeb and all,

You say: "The question is what is the use of having information (health) as a human right while millions of people in both HICs and LMICs are deprived of the basic right of accessing health and medical services."

I would answer that access to reliable healthcare information is at least as important for those who are deprived of basic health services as it is for those with access to such services. As an example, I share the experience I had in Peru that led me to dedicate my life's work to the challenge of healthcare information for all.

Children with diarrhoea are dying needlessly every day in low- and middle-income countries because of gross failures in providing simple, life-saving treatment, very often at the level of the household before reaching health services. The death in 1987 of a child with diarrhoea was the seed for my commitment to healthcare information for all, and you can listen to my story here (starting at 2mins 27secs): That child died from dehydration before the mother reached my medical hut in rural Peru, and the reason was that the parents believed that they should *stop* giving fluids to a child with diarrhoea. This false belief is common across the world, in Latin America, Africa and South Asia. The most recent figures I have, from the DHS Survey in India, show that '57 percent of children with diarrhoea were given less to drink and 5 percent were not given anything to drink'. There are similar false beliefs about other common and serious childhood (and adulthood) diseases. Our collective failure to empower parents with basic life-saving information is an indictment of the global healthcare inforamtion system. It is because of failures like these that we need a stepchange in high-level commitment, as advocated by HIFA.

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: