The ultimate price for poor access to health information


The ‘noughties’ era is undisputedly associated with a technology boom, rather than the under-representative term ‘growth,’ and subsequent information share. Because of this it can only be called shameful that in 2011 people continue to die because healthcare workers do not have the access they need to life-saving information. 

Healthcare Information for All (HIFA2015) has claimed that tens of thousands of people die unnecessarily every day for want of simple, low-cost interventions – interventions which are often available locally. According to the organization four in ten mothers in India believe that they should withhold fluids if their baby develops diarrhea. It also claims that seven in ten women giving birth in health facilities in Africa and South Asia are incorrectly managed during the 3rd stage of labour, predisposing them to postpartum hemorrhaging. If mothers, family caregivers or health workers had access to information in a time of need, more appropriate decisions could be made, helping to reduce these high death rates.

Established in Mombasa, Kenya in October 2006, at the 10th Congress of the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa, HIFA2015 set out to ensure every person worldwide will have access to an informed healthcare provider by 2015. It’s time that providing health information to all became a global priority.

Open access publishing plays a crucial role in this dissemination of knowledge and health care information, as do open data initiatives such as BioMed Central’s threaded publications scheme. Microsoft Research, which supports the Open Data category at our Annual Research Awards, has called on academics to take part in the technology revolution geared towards solving the world’s major health problems in a public address by Professor Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research, today.

Microsoft Research and BioMed Central are not alone in making a stand on this issue. HIFA2015, which held its first conference in London earlier this week, is represented by 1,800 organizations in 157 countries worldwide, a third of which are African countries. 

It will take a global effort to fix this global problem. We need to work together.

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