An effective information provision is fundamental to involving the public as partners in promoting better health. Information is a prerequisite to enable individuals to make informed personal choices in their own lives which benefit their health.
Access to information on health is partly covered by the Ã…rhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (1998) which spells out the public authorities duties towards the to the extent that it is environment-related. Epidemiological and toxicological data should in principle be available to the public, albeit noting the possibility of exemptions under the Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data, and the limitations concerning commercially confidential information and information affecting intellectual property rights, among others. In order to provide the maximum degree of public access to epidemiological data without infringing on personal privacy, such data should be structured so that the minimum information which could lead to the identification of a particular individual can be separated out and the remainder supplied. In such cases, provision should also be made for privileged access to the exempt data to be granted to qualified researchers nominated by members of the concerned public, with this access being covered by confidentiality agreements.