Why HIFA is needed

“It is a shameful fact that people are still dying because their healthcare workers don’t have access to the information they need.”
Virginia Barbour, Editor-in-Chief, PLoS Medicine, HIFA2015 Conference: lack of access to healthcare information is lethal, May 2011

Every day, tens of thousands of children, women and men die needlessly for want of simple, low-cost interventions – interventions that are often already locally available. A major contributing factor is that the mother, family caregiver or health worker does not have access to the information and knowledge they need, when they need it, to make appropriate decisions and save lives:

  • 8 in 10 caregivers in developing countries do not know the two key symptoms of childhood pneumonia – fast and difficult breathing – which indicate the need for urgent treatment (only 1 in 3 children with pneumonia receive antibiotics – despite wide availability – and 1.6 million consequently die each year) [1,2]
  • Only 1 in 10 children with diarrhoea in India receive increased fluids to prevent death from dehydration. Almost 4 in 10 receive less to drink than normal, thereby tragically increasing their risk of death. By contrast, more than 1 in 3 are inappropriately given antibiotics, which are not generally recommended for childhood diarrhoea. Almost half of children with diarrhoea in India are given little or no food, contrary to WHO recommendations. A thousand children die needlessly from diarrhoea every day in India alone, due to basic errors in care from parents and health workers. [3]
  • 7 in 10 doctors caring for sick children in district hospitals in Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines, Tanzania, and Uganda had poor basic knowledge of leading causes of child death such as childhood pneumonia, severe malnutrition, and sepsis. [4]
  • 4 in 10 family doctors in Pakistan prescribed tranquilisers as first-line treatment for hypertension. [5]
  • 7 in 10 children with malaria treated at home are mismanaged, contributing to 2000 deaths every day in Africa alone. [6]
  • 7 in 10 women giving birth in health facilities in Africa and South Asia are mismanaged during the 3rd stage of labour, predisposing them to postpartum haemorrhage. PPH kills more than 300 young women every day in the developing world. [7]
  • More than 9 in 10 prescriptions for tuberculosis in India are incorrect, predisposing those patients and the general population to multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in the future. [8]

Importantly, this situation is not the fault of healthcare providers. Healthcare providers can only function effectively if their basic professional needs are met.

[1] Wardlaw T et al. Pneumonia: the leading killer of children. Lancet 2006;368:1048-50
[2] UNICEF. State of the World’s Children 2012.
[3] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India. National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) 2005/6
[4] Nolan T et al. Quality of hospital care for seriously ill children in less-developed countries. Lancet 2001;357(9250):106-10
[5] Jafar TH et al. General practitioners’ approach to hypertension in urban Pakistan: disturbing trends in practice. Circulation 2005;111(10):1278-83
[6] Mozumder P & Marathe A. Role of information and communication networks in malaria survival. Malaria Journal 2007;6:136
[7] Stanton C et al. Use of active management of the third stage of labour in seven developing countries. WHO Bulletin 2009;87:207-215
[8] Mishra G et al. Tuberculosis Prescription Practices In Private And Public Sector In India. National Journal of Integrated Research in Medicine 2013; 4(2): 71-78

Further reading