HIFA2015 Conference: lack of access to healthcare information is lethal

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Earlier this week I attended the first Conference of the HIFA2015 campaign at the BMA in London. In true reflection of the global nature of the HIFA2015 listserve itself, there were  delegates from around the globe – and not just the USA and Europe. The HIFA2015 listserve has more 5000 members from more than 150 countries, with a third in Africa – an astonishing proportion. And the listerve is very active with engaged and well-informed members – as we discovered earlier this year when we participated in a debate on open versus free access.

The conference itself had a number of aims: to reflect on the HIFA2015 overall mission; to launch the HIFA 2011-2015 Challenge: “Meeting the information needs of mothers and family caregivers”; and to discuss the evaluation programme that  HIFA2015 is doing. The day ended with a global web conference.

What are the main messages I took away? First, as speaker after speaker said, it is a shameful fact that in 2011 people are still dying because their healthcare workers don’t have access to the information they need. Second, that there is the will to make this change at a grassroots level but more needs to be done to convince policymakers to pay attention. Third, I was shocked at how few editors and publishers were at this meeting. A count at the beginning of the meeting showed no more than a handful of people representing journals or publishers: some of the few represented were the BMJ (whose Editor, Fiona Godlee, chaired the first session), the Cochrane Collaboration, and PLoS Medicine.

The conference flyer had this quote from Tikki Pang, Muir Gray, and Tim Evans back in 2006:

“The challenge is to ensure that everyone in the world can have access to clean, clear [health] knowledge – a basic human right, and a public health need as important as access to clean, clear water, and much more easily achievable.”

Five years after this was written, and at a time when information can be shared more easily than ever, it’s time that providing health information to all became a global priority.

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