BMA Policy on Healthcare Information For All (2) WMA Policy on Healthcare Information For All, 2019

23 November, 2022

Dear Joseph,

"Hello Neil thank you for sharing this important report from 2015.

What has happened since on the initiatives mentioned n the report?

What next can be done to advance the ideas in it?"

Thank you for your message and questions. In 2015 the British Medical Association unanimously adopted the policy: "That this meeting applauds efforts to bring essential healthcare information to citizens in low resource settings, welcomes the BMA's ongoing support for the Healthcare Information for All campaign, and calls upon the UK government to prioritise support for initiatives that improve the availability and use of health information." There was no report, and no response from the UK Government at the time. The following year, in September 2016, Lord Nigel Crisp kindly tabled two parliamentary questions to the UK Government, further to a request by the BMA. Below are the two questions and answers.

QUESTION 1: "To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to increase access to information about health and health care for both members of the public and health workers globally." (HL1817)

ANSWER: Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Department for International Development): "The UK government is working with many global partners to increase access to information about health and about health care. A number of our partners are service providers who work directly with patients, providing information as well as services; others are engaged in social marketing and improve understanding about health prevention, protection and care seeking. We also invest in global partnerships, such as the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the STOP TB Partnership whose members include patient organisations that seek to increase access to information."

QUESTION 2: "To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the work of Health Information for All." (HL1818)

ANSWER: Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Department for International Development): "DFID research and evidence programmes, in particular, invest in outputs that increase knowledge about health and health care provision and one of the programmes (TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases) is a member of Health Information for All."

The most significant consequence of the BMA policy of 2015 was the adoption of a similar and more detailed policy in 2019 by the World Medical Association, which represents over 10 million of the world's doctors: WMA Statement on Healthcare Information For All: This statement includes a pre-amble of 10 paragraphs outlining the importance of the issue, and concludes with a commitment by the World Medical Association and its constituent members on behalf of their physician members, to support and commit to 7 actions:

1. Promote initiatives to improve access to timely, current, evidence-based healthcare information for health professionals, patients and the public to support appropriate decision-making, lifestyle changes, care-seeking behaviour and improved quality of care – thereby upholding the right to health.

2. Promote standards of good practice and ethics to be met by information providers, guaranteeing reliable and quality information that is produced with the participation of physicians, other health professionals, and patient representatives.

3. Support research to identify enablers and barriers to the availability of healthcare information, including how to improve the production and dissemination of evidence-based information for the public, patients and health professionals, and measures to increase health literacy and the ability to find and interpret such information.

4. Ensure that health professionals have access to evidence-based information on diagnosis and treatment of diseases, including unbiased information on medicines. Particular attention should be paid to those working in primary care in low- and middle-income countries.5.

5. Combat myths and misinformation around healthcare through validated scientific and clinical evidence, and by urging the media to report responsibly on health issues. This includes the study of health-related beliefs stemming from cultural or sociological differences. This will improve the effectiveness of health promotion activities and allow the dissemination of healthcare information to be adequately targeted to different segments of the population.

6. Urge governments to recognize their moral obligation to take measures to improve the availability and use of evidence-based healthcare information. This includes:

resources to select, compile, integrate and channel scientifically validated information and knowledge. This should be adapted to target various different recipients;

measures to increase availability of healthcare information for healthcare workers and patients at health centres;

leveraging modern communication technology and social media;

policies that support efforts to increase the availability and use of reliable healthcare information.

7. Urge governments to provide the political and financial support needed for ‘WHO’s function to ensure access to authoritative and strategic information on matters that affect peoples’ health’, based on the WHO General Programme of Work 2019-23.

Our challenge now is to help move the World Medical Association recommendations into reality. Our new status as an NGO in official relations provides us with a wonderful opportunity. Our status is underpinned by a 3-year HIFA-WHO Collaboration Plan, which has 10 agreed activities grouped in five priority areas:

1. Achieving universal access

2. Understanding information needs

3. Meet information needs in different languages

4. Promote WHO publications

5. Support WHO advocacy.

The plan is being implemented by a working group of HIFA and WHO representatives in liaison with the main HIFA Steering Group. We are currently seeking funding for all parts of the plan (funding from WHO is not available to NGOs in official relations - it must be secured independently).

The HIFA Steering Group met last week and agreed that, even in the absence of funding, we should proceed with Activity 1 of the plan, which is to 'identify best practices, opportunities and challenges from relevant health related stakeholders, towards pursuing universal access to reliable healthcare information' with a view to submit a report to WHO by the end of 2023. This part of the plan is costed at $15k. We would welcome help, advice and contacts through HIFA members to identify financial and technical support.

More information on the HIFA-WHO Collaboration Plan is available on our website - - and the plan itself is publicly available on the WHO website here:

We shall be counting on everyone's support as we move forward with this challenging but exciting mission... the latest step in a marathon of achievements, with thanks to all our members, volunteers and supporting organisations.

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where every person has access to reliable healthcare information and is protected from misinformation - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. HIFA brings stakeholders together to accelerate progress towards universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK based non-profit in official relations with the World Health Organization.

Twitter: @hifa_org