What are 'essential health services'? (5) Essential health information

24 February, 2021

In defining "essential health services", one of the services that is certainly essential for the provision of health is information - I hope no-one on HIFA disagrees! As such, by an extension of the definition, the provision of essential health information should be considered one of the "essential health services".

Some people feel that "essential information" is too diffuse and subjective a term - information that is essential to one person in a specific situation may be quite inessential for another person in a different situation. That is certainly true, but if we define "essential healh information" as "information that is essential to human (or individual) health" - or, more broadly, "information that is essential to human development" - then we allow for all the different circumstances.

There are a couple of precedents showing that this concept of "essential information" has wider acceptance:

- In 2003, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace (https://en.unesco.org/recommendation-mulilingualism), which promoted “access to information for all, multilingualism and cultural diversity on the global information networks”. In this important declaration, Universal access to cyberspace was defined as “equitable and affordable access by all citizens to information infrastructure (notably to the Internet) and to *information and knowledge essential to collective and individual human development*” (my emphasis).

- The 1971 Paris Revisions to the Berne Convention - an importtant component of copyright law - contain an Appendix that defines iinformation that is essential to human development. The definition is based on an expressed need for specific information. Developing countries can issue compulsory licences to translate and republish “for the purpose of teaching, scholarship or research” anything that has been published abroad - whether the foreign publisher wants to allow it or nott. “Anything” is specified as “natural and physical sciences, including mathematics, and -technology [and] fiction, poeetry, drama and music, and - art books.” It covers “-print and analogous forms of reproduction- works which are composedd mainly of illustrations-broadcasts- [and] sound or visual al recordings of a translation- [and] audio-visual fixation”. Although this description of such information is broad, it has survived the scrutiny of hordes of publishers and arrays of lawyers. The definition must therefore be at least good enough (anyone interested in more is invited to read https://ziggytheblue.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/lets-revive-a-forgotten-ri... ).

So let's support the idea of including the provision of essential health information as a component of essential health services.


Chris Zielinski


Blogs: http://ziggytheblue.wordpress.com and http://ziggytheblue.tumblr.com

Research publications: http://www.researchgate.net

HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT chriszielinski.com

His publications are at www.ResearchGate.net and https://winchester.academia.edu/ChrisZielinski/ and his blogs are http://ziggytheblue.wordrpress.com and https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ziggytheblue