The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the importance of timely and comprehensive health information, but also the difficulties faced by many in accessing it. Action is needed to ensure that everyone benefits from the infrastructure needed to achieve this. This goal lies at the heart of the Cochrane Call to Action on supporting evidence responses to global health emergencies.

Decision-makers, both within health services and in government, rely on being able to consult the latest knowledge in order to make the best possible choices for patients and populations as a whole. This need is particularly high at times of uncertainty and change, when new insights are emerging that could have a major effect on the effectiveness of efforts to keep people healthy.

In the course of the COVID-19 Pandemic, librarians and information professionals have taken on key roles, working to shape evidence gathering and creation, process information and present it to these decision-makers in a way that enables them to do their jobs, and to combat misinformation.

However, it is not every country that benefits from this sort of infrastructure, in particular within governments. This risks becoming a source of inequality for citizens. Those lucky enough to live in countries with better resourced health evidence systems are likely to enjoy more effective policies and responses, while others are left behind.

The Cochrane Call to Action is the result of discussion involving different stakeholders involved in efforts to make sense of the pandemic while it was happening, including knowledge managers.

It highlights the need for action to promote equity in the way we target evidence-gathering, as well as in who gathers it, and who then access it later. It stresses too that even where evidence-management teams exist, they were pushed to their limits, and that we have yet to find a way of communicating uncertainty and building trust in the face of mis- and disinformation.

This can happen through greater investment in evidence-management, in particularly in countries where resources are scarce, as well as in broader infrastructures for evidence gathering and sharing in favour of greater equity.

It also promotes a greater (collaborative) effort to explore how to communicate about science, and in particular about uncertainty – something that is not an easy task, but is definitely a necessary one in the face of simplistic solutions.

The Call to Action is a relevant one for libraries, given the emphasis both on library goals (greater access to information), and indeed on support to infrastructures of which libraries are an important part. For these reasons, IFLA is happy to support the Call!

Find our more about the work of IFLA’s Health and Biosciences Libraries Section and Evidence for Global and Disaster Health Special Interest Group.