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Meeting the needs of healthcare providers

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, Co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network and Coordinator of HIFA2015, argues that the Millennium Development Goals are achievable, but only if we focus on the needs of healthcare providers.
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In drawing up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the international community has committed to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by threequarters, and to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2015. These goals will only be achieved if we focus on the needs of healthcare providers

Two-thirds of child and maternal deaths could be avoided if healthcare providers had access to simple, inexpensive interventions, and the knowledge to use them correctly. ‘Applying what we know already will have a bigger impact on health and disease than any drug or technology likely to be introduced in the next decade’ (Pang et al, 2006).

Healthcare providers have seven basic needs: skills, equipment, information, structural support, medicines, incentives, and communication facilities (SEISMIC). A seismic shift is required to better understand and meet these needs. Thanks to the internet and Web 2.0 technologies, the international community now has the capacity to harness the collective intelligence of all stakeholders to more effectively address these needs.

Healthcare Information for All by 2015 (HIFA2015) is a global campaign that focuses particularly on the information needs of healthcare providers in developing countries. The campaign was launched in October 2006 by the Global Healthcare Information Network, a member organisation of the Global Health Workforce Alliance. It has brought together over 1200 professionals from more than 100 countries, ranging from global health leaders to community health workers. They include health professionals, researchers, publishers, librarians, social scientists, policymakers and others involved in the creation, exchange and use of healthcare information. Our common goal is: ‘By 2015, every person worldwide will have access to an informed healthcare provider’.

Mothers and other family members have a critical role to play not only in preventing ill health, but also in taking appropriate action when a child or adult is ill. Therefore we use the term 'healthcare provider' to include family caregivers as well as formal health workers.

Members interact through two email discussion forums: HIFA2015 (general health) and CHILD2015 (child health). Topics include:

Over the coming months we are planning with the Institute of Development Studies to develop the HIFA2015 Knowledge Base on the information and learning needs of health workers, and what works and what doesn’t in meeting those needs. It will help inform existing and future health information programmes, and will provide the evidence base we need to put healthcare information at the top of the development agenda. It will incorporate collaborative authoring software (wiki) to harness directly the experience and expertise of HIFA2015 and CHILD2015 members.

HIFA2015 is about meeting the information needs of health workers, but all seven areas of need must be addressed to achieve the MDGs. HIFA2015 is therefore linking with other global campaigns that focus on related areas such as access to medicines and diagnostic equipment. Thanks to the increasing availability of the internet, these inclusive knowledge networks have the potential to engage stakeholders and harness collective intelligence in ways that have previously been impossible. All this could be readily supported under the umbrella of the Global Health Workforce Alliance, so that we may all work together toward our shared vision: ‘Access to a skilled, motivated and supported health worker by every person, in every village, everywhere’.

Further Information
Neil Pakenham-Walsh
Co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network and Coordinator of HIFA2015, Global Healthcare Information Network
16 Woodfield Drive
Charlbury
Oxford
OX7 3SE, UK
admin@ghi-net.org
neil.pakenham-walsh@ghi-net.org

Useful links

A 15th Grand Challenge for Global Public Health
The Lancet,367(9507), pages 284-286, Tikki Pang et al, 2006
Can we achieve health information for all by 2015?
The Lancet, 364, pages 295-300, Fiona Godlee et al, 2004
HIFA2015 Foundation Document 2007
Global Health Workforce Alliance
Global Healthcare Information Network
Healthcare Information for All by 2015

February 2008

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