12 December is International Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.
Universal health coverage (UHC) is the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to quality, affordable health care.
This year's theme is Build the World We Want: A Healthy Future for All.
HIFA has campaigned since 2006 to improve the availability and use of relevant, reliable healthcare infroamtion as a foundation for universal health coverage and prevention of avoidable suffering and death. In 2012 we published a white paper with the New York Law School and others demonstrating that governments have a legal obligation under international human rights law to ensure thair population has access to reliable information - an obligation that has been egregiously ignored by several governments during COVID-19. Indeed no government (to my knowledge) has specifically recognised this obligation.
In 2020, we published Universal access to essential health information: accelerating progress towards universal health coverage and other SDG health targets, in BMJ Global Health. We emphasised:
1. Effective people-centred health care requires the public, carers and frontline health workers to have timely access to reliable, practical, health information (we term this essential health information), yet in many parts of the world this is often difficult for people to obtain.
2. Universal access to essential health information is therefore a prerequisite for, and indeed a key component of, universal health coverage (UHC), yet this fundamental role for UHC of access to essential health information appears to have been largely neglected - for example it does not feature in thhe Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) UHC target or associated indicators.
3. There is growing evidence of the impact of wider access to practical, actionable, information about health and how this could accelerate the achievement of UHC and other SDG health targets.
4. Achieving universal access to essential health information is becoming increasingly feasible and affordable, not least due to the global spread of modern communication technology, but progress is being held back by a glaring lack of high-level political and financial commitment.
5. All stakeholders need to work together to accelerate progress towards universal access to essential health information; a catalyst for this would be the inclusion of universal access to essential health information in the relevant SDG target and associated monitoring indicators for UHC, a step that WHO could usefully endorse.
There continues to be 'a glaring lack of high-level political and financial commitment' and 'all stakeholders need to work together to accelerate progress towards universal access to essential health information'.
When I co-founded HIFA in 2006 I was not expecting it to be so hard, and to take so long, to promote the political and financial commitment that is needed to achieve universal access to reliable healthcare information. The latest step in this journey was for us (Global Healthcare Information Network, the minuscule organisation that administers HIFA) to be recognised as a non-State actor in official relations. We now have a compelling 3-year strategic plan but continue to be constrained by funding (we need £140k per year but we operate with only £50k per year, and most of this is tied to specific projects). We need help from our members and from our supporting organisations. If you can help, please contact: email@example.com
Best wishes, Neil