WHO calls for universal access to health information

15 December, 2022

Dear HIFA colleagues,

In a press release on Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day), the World Health Organization (WHO) calls for 'universal health information for Health for All'.


In 2004 a Lancet paper by Fiona Godlee, me and others proposed 'that WHO takes the lead in championing the goal of "Universal access to essential health-care information by 2015" or "Health Information for All"'. WHO provided a letter of support for HIFA to be launched independently in 2006, and WHO has been HIFA's leading strategic partner since then. Several current and former WHO staff and consultants are represented on the HIFA Steering Group, and WHO provides staff time for help with HIFA-French, HIFA-Portuguese and HIFA-Spanish. In January 2022 the Global Healthcare Information Network (the small non-profit that administers HIFA) entered into official relations with WHO, underpinned by a 3-year Collaboration Plan: https://publicspace.who.int/sites/GEM/official_relations_details.aspx?id...

WHO has of course always been committed to improve the availability and use of reliable healthcare information. The WHO Constitution itself includes the mandate to 'extend to all people the benefits of medical knowledge'. WHO is the world's leading provider of reliable healthcare information. It has also led and championed several important initiatives including Hinari (which provides free or low-cost online access to journals and books) and WHO Information Network for Epidemics (which aims to make scientific information accessible during emergencies). WHO has worked with social media and tech giants to explore ways to protect people from misinformation. And in the current press release, WHO launches two new practical tools that improve the availability of reliable inoformation for policymakers and the general public.

The call for 'universal health information' in this press release is the latest explicit commitment by WHO to accelerate progress towards healthcare information for all.

On behalf of HIFA, I am excited by this because it demonstrates unequivocally that WHO is proactively taking the lead in championing the goal of universal access to essential healthcare information. HIFA looks forward to continue working with WHO towards this goal, convening stakeholders and securing high-level political commitment.

The timing is serendipitous. A group of HIFA and WHO representatives are currently planning Activity 1 (of 10 activities) of the HIFA-WHO Collaboration Plan. This activity commits HIFA to provide a report to WHO by the end of 2023 "To identify best practices, opportunities and challenges from relevant health related stakeholders, towards pursuing universal access to reliable healthcare information." From January 2023 we shall be running a global consultation here on the HIFA forums and through an online survey and key ionformant interviews.

This specific activity is costed at $15k. Currently HIFA has $2k of unrestricted funds from personal donations to the Global Healthcare Information Network.

I would like to invite all HIFA supporting organisations and members to provide a financial contribution for this collective work. Any amount you can afford will be gratefully received. You can pay securely by Paypal or direct bank transfer.

Paypal: http://www.hifa.org/support/donate

Direct bank transfer: a/c Healthcare Information For All (HIFA), Co-operative Bank, UK, Sort code: 08-92-99, Account number: 65873036, IBAN: GB36 CPBK 089299 65873036

We are also calling for technical support to help implement Activity 1. For example, there may be an opportunity here for a masters student in global health. We also welcome advice and personal contacts to help us identify funding for the remaining nine activities of the plan, which are currently on hold due to lack of resources.

All support will be publicly recognised (with your permission).

Read more about the Collaboration Plan (Overview, Activities, Members) here: https://www.hifa.org/projects/hifa-who-collaboration-plan

As we enter 2023, can you help us to accelerate progress towards universal access to reliable healthcare information, in collaboration with WHO?

Please feel free to reply to me: neil@hifa.org

or to the HIFA forum: hifa@hifaforums.org

With thanks and best wishes, Neil

Dr Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator

Healthcare Information For All

Global Healthcare Information Network

Working in Official Relations with the World Health Organization

20,000 members, 400 supporting organisations, 180 countries, 6 forums, 4 languages

www.hifa.org neil@hifa.org