Health Information Week (6-12 July) was an opportunity for providers of healthcare content from all sectors to come together and shine a light on the value and importance of high-quality information for patients and the public.

There is an abundance of research to show that high quality health information can have a huge impact on people’s ability to stay healthy and manage illnesses effectively, giving them a better quality of life.

Until now, many people may have regarded the need for such information solely as an intervention to guide and support others through an illness, surgery or living with a long term condition, but the current pandemic has shown everyone how vital it is to have access to accurate, evidence based, up to date and culturally appropriate information for our safety and our lives.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown how easy it is for unreliable and untrustworthy information to make it into mainstream and social media.  We need to address how we help patients and the public to find high quality health information they can trust. 

We need to ensure people have confidence in the health information they find on the internet or in community settings. 

To help address this issue and to provide a solution, PIF worked with colleagues across the sectors to create a quality standard, the PIF TICK. 

To be awarded the PIF TICK an organisation must undergo an assessment to show its production process meets 10 criteria addressing issues of accessibility, reliability and user engagement. 

Consumer research by PIF found 80% of the public would look for a quality mark for health information. Evidence, plain English and trained staff were the top three criteria for quality health information identified by the public, although all criteria were supported.

But COVID-19 has particularly highlighted the importance of clear messaging, which is culturally appropriate and speaks directly to everyone to help mitigate fears and reduce anxiety. 

The use of culturally specific imagery and content using voices of communities with lived experience is needed to shape future public messaging. 

These issues are addressed in the recent Public Health England’s report Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities and their recommendations apply both to COVID-19 and information on non-communicable diseases associated with inequality, including diabetes and heart disease. 

Ensuring information is inclusive and does not reinforce health inequalities is essential. Involving the community and users in the development and creation of the content, communications and marketing will increase the reach, strengthen the impact of the messages, and so help improve overall health. 

These elements are all a key part of the process for producing quality health information and achieving the PIF TICK, a sign for the public that they can trust what they are reading. 

PIF has produced guidance on all aspects, including user engagement, but we too are committed to continuous improvement and we will undertake a review of our own guidance to make sure it is fit for purpose. 

Thirty-seven organisations have joined the PIF TICK scheme since it opened in May 2020. 

We would encourage as many of you as possible to take a look at the scheme and join us in getting one step closer to giving patients and the public confidence to make the necessary changes and improvements to their health based on trusted information.