Lancet Offline: Political declarations - clichés and lies (2)

25 September, 2023

Neil and HIFA Colleagues

It is hard not to agree with Richard Horton’s assessment in the Lancet that the recent UN Political Declarations on health matters were a wasted opportunity, not least for the declaration on Universal Health Coverage . In particular, in regards to access to health-related information, given that the UN review of 21 September was “to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress towards the achievement of universal health coverage by 2030” it is depressing that the Political Declaration gives so little attention to the role of health care information as one of the progress accelerators.

It is not until para 33 of the declaration that health-related information is mentioned at all, in the context of health misinformation (also picked up at para 82). There is then only a light scattering of subsequent references (para 56 on information to counter vaccine hesitancy; para 62 on information for sexual and reproductive health; paras 78 and 79 on digital health; and para 81 and 101 on health information systems for management and monitoring).

Although one may wonder how much action results from such declarations they can at least indicate or confirm aspirations. The latest declaration repeatedly refers to the importance of “access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. Until such declarations extend that phrase to include access to safe, effective, quality health-related information for all, and spell out the requirements for achieving that, they will continue to fall short.



Dr Geoff Royston

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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