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Involving citizens to improve healthcare

‘The confluence of interest between advocacy groups, those who sell treatments, and those who prescribe them makes for a potent cocktail of influence, almost always pushing policy makers in one direction: more tests, more procedures, more beds, more pills. . .

As someone reporting in this field for more than a decade, I sense that what’s often missing from the debate is a voice genuinely representing the public interest. Sponsored advocacy groups are quick to celebrate a new treatment or technology but slow to publicly criticise its limited effectiveness, excessive cost, or downright danger. And, like many journalists, politicians tend to be unnecessarily intimidated by senior health professionals and passionate advocates, who too often lend their credibility to marketing campaigns that widen disease definitions and promote the most expensive solutions.

The emergence of new citizens’ lobbies within healthcare, well versed in the way scientific evidence can be used and misused, may produce a more informed debate about spending priorities. Such citizens’ groups could routinely expose misleading marketing in the media and offer the public and policy makers realistic and sophisticated assessments of the risks, benefits, and costs of a much broader range of health strategies.’

Moynihan R. Power to the people. BMJ 2011;342:d2002.

Read more in Patients’ organizations:  independent voices or not?