Health for all is a human right and a priority for the global digital health community. However, it is important to note that as the community continues to contribute to universal health coverage, there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure that no one is left behind.
Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges
We know that digital health technologies have immense potential for catalyzing equitable, effective, and sustainable health access resulting in improved health outcomes. However, the digital health community has observed that if this is not done right such technologies could further alienate populations that already have limited access to healthcare such as those from low-resource settings, underserved and marginalized populations.
As we make a way towards more inclusive digital health technologies, first, let’s not forget to celebrate our gains over the years and particularly achievements in 2020; which has been one of the most challenging years in the health sector. As a community, we have made great progress especially in terms of streamlining frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Health Organization digital health guidelines. These frameworks unite the community through the provision of evidence-based standards and ensure that resources target projects that work.
But we need to do more!
There is certainly no better time than now to have candid reflections on what works. This is especially true due to the accelerated use of digital health technologies due to COVID-19 among other recent health emergencies. There is consensus that on the one hand, the pandemic found the digital health community ready to address healthcare delivery in many aspects. It is also undeniable that the pandemic exposed critical gaps in digital health.
Therefore, as digital health technologies continue to emerge, we need to know and adopt what works. As such, we should take a moment to reflect on how to make digital technologies work for everyone;
- How do we strengthen the digital health ecosystem (which includes; societies/end-users, governments, private sector, civil society, and technical communities)?
- How do we bridge the gap between digital health-have and have-nots (especially among people in low-resource settings, people in fragile settings, women, young people, people with disabilities, and people with diverse sexual and gender identities) to accelerate healthcare delivery?
- What about issues of trust such as aspects of security, confidentiality, and privacy? Are we leaving people behind because of distrust in digital health?
- How do we ensure that proven digital health technologies and strategies are accessed by those who need them the most such as healthcare workers?
- How do we leverage digital health technologies to address emerging global health issues such as pandemics, other health emergencies, as well as other socio-cultural and environmental factors that contribute to physical and mental ill-health; for example digital waste, climate change, racism, inequality, and financial insecurity?
Focus on Knowledge Sharing and Networking Across the World
As the digital health community, we know that leveraging coordination has greatly contributed to our success. This approach has enabled our members to collaborate across nations, prioritize the most pertinent digital health issues and scale up solutions that work.
For over ten years, the Global Digital Health Network has been at the forefront of coordinating digital health across the globe. Activities of the Network include convening the annual Global Digital Health Forum and thematic monthly meetings, among others. The Forum is one of the most diverse digital health gatherings bringing together prominent digital health practitioners worldwide.
Notable contributions of the Forum to the digital health community include:
- Fostering multinational collaborations such as project implementation, research, innovation, and technology development.
- Fast-tracking scale-up of people-centered, data-driven, appropriate, and population-specific digital health strategies.
- Facilitating up-to-date knowledge transfer across countries, various sectors, and disciplines such best practices in technology innovation, health systems strengthening, healthcare delivery, computing, software engineering, data science, health promotion, and education, among others.
Towards Inclusive Digital Health
This year, the Network is taking a bold step towards shaping the future of global digital health by uniting the digital health community to make digital health work for everyone.
At the 3-day virtual Global Digital Health Forum scheduled for December 7-9, attendees and presenters will take every opportunity to highlight digital health technologies and strategies for improving efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of global digital healthcare delivery among all populations around the world. Learn more about the remarkable speakers at bit.ly/GDHF2020
To demonstrate our commitment to inclusive digital health, for the first time, registration fees for participants from LMICs have been waived while a modest fee will apply to participants from non-LMICs. Additionally, for the first time, we have sessions in French and Spanish with interpretation in English.
The proceedings of the Forum will pave a way towards breaking the barriers of digital health especially among under-served populations and people in low-resource settings.
Registration closes on Dec 7. Join the community at bit.ly/GDHF2020 to make your commitment to digital health solutions that work for everyone.