Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Reality Check

Power to the people

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 06 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2002
  1. Ray Moynihan, author, journalist, and conjoint lecturer, University of Newcastle, Australia
  1. Ray.Moynihan{at}

Could a new and informed citizens’ movement make medicine healthier?

Three decades after John Lennon’s death, his ghost made a surprise appearance last month on a most unlikely stage. “Power to the people,” proclaimed Gavin Mooney—citing a line from the late Beatle—from the podium of a conference on rural health in faraway Australia. Until recently professor of health economics at Curtin University, Perth, Mooney was outlining a vision of an informed citizenry making health systems accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve. “Now wouldn’t that be a revolution,” he concluded, to hearty applause.

As healthcare eats an ever bigger slice of public spending everywhere, calls are growing for the public to take more of an interest in how their money is used. John Menadue, from the Centre for Policy Development in Sydney, told the same conference in March that it’s time that an educated and informed community challenged the power of vested interests in medicine, notably doctors’ associations, private health insurers, and drug companies. Formerly an ambassador to Japan, a manager within Rupert Murdoch’s empire, a chief executive of Qantas, and at one time the top public servant in the …

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