The Astana Declaration (6) Multilingualism and Access to knowledge

29 October, 2018

Dear colleagues

Big thanks to Neil and Isabelle for leading the work on HIFA contribution to Astana Declaration and for sharing it widely. Thanks also go to all those who dedicated time and effort to make it happen. Now we have the Declaration and the next step would be to bring life to it by urging governments, NGOs and the communities to implement and be accountable for what has been committed.

Like other colleagues who have commented and expressed support and made few observations on the Declaration, I would like to add the following:

- It’s a good Declaration, building on previous achievements, progress, lessons learned and is forthcoming;

- The Declaration totally ignored “multilingualism” as a major contributor to achieving health information for all and of course health for all itself. Multilingualism actually means a lot especially when it implies diversity, learning form others, sharing experience between language groups, multiple approaches, etc. Mono is not good. If those who met in Astana thought that there is only one language (English or else) that can be used to communicates science, knowledge and expertise, then then they are wrong;

- A more important issue is “access to knowledge” in the Declaration. There is no mention, it seems, to the fact that using, translating or applying knowledge requires access to it first of all. The Declaration talks about access to health services but never mentioned that access to knowledge (research, education and practice) is essential. Most countries and their healthcare workers lack access to knowledge due to cost, infrastructure, time, etc. If we want these people to use and apply knowledge we have to make it available and accessible to them first;

- When the Declaration talks about “technology”, as usual it lump sums ”medicines, etc.” with “information systems, digital technology, ICT4H and ICT4D”. I think it’s high time to differentiate between these things and make sure that they are connected but belong to different domains (industries) in ministries of health and in the health sector in general. Also who said that “traditional medicine” is technology? A more focused statement on the role of information and communication technology in health should have been present. The problem with ICT4H in many ministries is that it is seen as auxiliary, parallel, additional and good to have rather than essential.

Best regards.

Najeeb Al-Shorbaji, PhD, President of the eHealth Development Association of Jordan, FIAHSI, Independent Consultant in Knowledge Management and eHealth

P.O. Box 542006

Amman 11937


Mobile +962 799391604

Tel. +962 (6) 5240273


Twitter: shorbajin


HIFA profile: Najeeb Al-Shorbaji recently retired from the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked since 1988 in different capacities. He was most recently Director of the Knowledge, Ethics and Research Department at WHO headquarters, Geneva. Previously he was Coordinator for Knowledge Management and Sharing in EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office), Egypt. He is a member of a number of national and international professional societies and associations specialised in information management and health informatics. He has authored over 100 research papers and articles presented in various conferences and published in professional journals. He is a member of the HIFA Steering Group. shorbajin AT