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Universal health information is essential for universal health coverage
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  • Published on:
    Towards universal access to reliable healthcare information: A global stakeholder consultation for the World Health Organization
    • Neil M Pakenham-Walsh, Global health professional Healthcare Information For All
    • Other Contributors:
      • Geoff H Royston, Health analyst and researcher
      • Chris Zielinski, President Elect

    The WHO Deputy Director-General and colleagues recently wrote that “universal access to health information is a human right and essential to achieving universal health coverage and the other health-related targets of the sustainable development goals”, citing a previous analysis [1,2]. Indeed, reliable healthcare information* should be available to all and used to protect health at all levels from the home through to primary, secondary and tertiary care [3].

    Yet, despite the transformation of the information landscape by the digital revolution, with all the opportunities this has provided for provision of and access to healthcare information, connectivity is not evenly distributed [4] and does not guarantee accuracy or quality of information. Further, it has led to an explosion of misinformation, associated with wider public distrust in science and exacerbated by social media and the recent 'infodemic' associated with COVID-19. There is a pressing need not only to increase access, but also to empower people to differentiate between reliable information and misinformation.

    Almost 20 years ago a Lancet paper [5] argued that access to reliable healthcare information is dependent on a functional global evidence ecosystem, but the current system was dysfunctional. It cited three intrinsic weaknesses: poor communication among stakeholders, poor understanding of information needs and how to meet them, and poor advocacy associated with a near total abse...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.