HIFA survey: Q6: Universal health coverage cannot be achieved without universal access to reliable healthcare information

18 September, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

We now have 1244 responses to our survey! Please add your voice and spread the word: www.hifa.org/survey2023

Question 6 in our global survey is:

Q6: Universal health coverage cannot be achieved without universal access to reliable healthcare information. Do you strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, or strongly agree?

To help answer this question, it may be useful to define what we mean by UHC and universal access to reliable healthcare information.

WHO defines UHC as: 'Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.' https://www.who.int/health-topics/universal-health-coverage

HIFA defines universal access to reliable healthcare information to mean that all people have access to the reliable healthcare information they need to protect their own health and the health of others. By definition, this should not only be accurate and up-to-date, it should also be unbiased and reflect, as far as possible, the cumulative evidence based on robust research; it should clearly be in the right language, technical level, and format; it should be relevant and applicable to the person’s immediate situation (which is always changing); and the person should be empowered to differentiate it from the barrage of misinformation that does not fulfil these criteria. I would add that the term 'access to reliable healthcare information' is not limited to the moment in question; it also refers to what the healthcare provider has learned previously. The healthcare provider who routinely treats childhood diarrhoea with oral replacement therapy is acting on the basis of prior access to reliable healthcare information, whereas the healthcare provider who routinely provides antibiotics to children with simple diarrhoea is acting inappropriately against the evidence.

It's also important to acknowledge that we simply do not know what is the relative contribution of 'lack of reliable healthcare information' to poor quality care. A Lancet paper by Kruk et al a few years ago estimated that up to 8.6 million people a year die due to poor quality care (and HIFA has pointed out this is likely to be a gross underestimate as it only looks at quality of care in facilities, and ignores quality of care in the home and community).

The availability and use of reliable healthcare information is a sine qua non for quality health services and therefore I would strongly agree with the above statement.

Furthermore, empowering people with the information they need for prevention of illness, self-care and family care, and for making appropriate decisions for example on care-seeking, is also a potent driver of universal health coverage.

What do you think?

Best wishes,


HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: neil@hifa.org