BMJ Paeds Open Editorial: Why health information needs to be accessible to all

19 December, 2018


In this editorial, Tony Waterston (lead moderator, CHIFA) and Neil Pakenham Walsh (coordinator, HIFA) discuss problems with the provision of health information to healthcare providers around the world and the work of CHIFA (Child Healthcare Information for All).

The CHIFA vision: A world where every child, every parent and every health worker has access to the health information they need to protect their own health and the health of children for whom they are responsible.

What is 'health information'’, and why is it needed?
Health information can be described as the information that citizens, health workers and others need to protect their own health and the health of others. In this context, it is information that is needed for all aspects of child health: for the prevention of disease and the maintenance of health; for screening, diagnosis and appropriate management of disease; and for rehabilitative and palliative care. More specifically, this refers to the information needed to promote healthy lifestyles, appropriate healthcare seeking, decision-making, accurate diagnosis, rational prescribing, appropriate management and referral. This information can be found through a wide variety of sources; from scholarly journal articles to patient leaflets and mass media, from well-conducted systematic reviews to global and national policy and practice guidelines, from decision-support tools to textbooks, manuals and drug formularies.

Improving access to relevant, reliable and evidence-based healthcare information has enormous potential to radically improve healthcare and outcomes worldwide. The Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care2 states that: ‘Primary Healthcare includes at least: education concerning prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them’. It is essential that all users of healthcare information can find information that is in their preferred language and at the correct technical level, and presented in the optimal format (electronic, print, visual and oral) so that it can be utilised effectively...

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