Six words to accelerate progress on universal health coverage: 'timely access to essential healthcare information'

18 September, 2019

On 23 September 2019, world leaders will come together at the United Nations General Assembly in New York for a high-level meeting on universal health coverage. They will agree a political declaration to secure commitment worldwide to making universal health coverage a reality.

"The UN High-Level Meeting must be truly transformative", says Dr Ilona Kickbusch, co-chair of UHC2030 at the World Health Organization, in a recent letter in The Lancet. 

We agree, and specifically we want to see much more attention given to what is arguably the greatest single cause of avoidable death and suffering: lack of availability and use of healthcare information. As Sir Muir Gray said 15 years ago: 'Knowledge is the enemy of disease... The application of the knowledge we already possess has greater potential to improve the health of patients than any drug or technology likely to be developed in the next decade.' The same remains true today. 

The final draft of the Declaration is already available and the HIFA Steering Group has submitted a response. Below are extracts. Read our full response here.

'HIFA welcomes the development of this Declaration...

'However we are concerned that it barely acknowledges the importance of access to essential healthcare information for achieving UHC...

'The draft Declaration omits mention of generic, reliable, actionable, healthcare information, in a language and format that is accessible to the patient, which is critical in strengthening patient involvement in clinical decision making. 

'In this respect it appears seriously out of step with the latest WHO declared policies and guidelines, in particular the WHO/UNICEF Vision for Primary Care (2018), the Declaration of Astana (2018); and the WHO Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health (2019), which all clearly indicate the role of healthcare information as a key enabler for patient-centred care and the need therefore to support wide access to it.

'The Declaration could be made more consistent with the above WHO policies and guidelines by adding just six words: “timely access to essential healthcare information” to either or both of paragraphs 27 and 65.'

Our thanks to Geoff Royston, Chris Zielinski and other members of the HIFA Steering Group for their continuing efforts to position universal access to healthcare information as a prerequisite for universal health coverage and other health SDGs targets. 

For an overview of the issue, see the HIFA poster here

We look forward to your comments, suggestions and support. 

Help us create a world where people are no longer dying due to lack of essential healthcare information. Join HIFA!

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