A global conference on ‘Taking UHC to the last citizen’ has called for harnessing the boundless potential of digital health to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.
“Digital health can significantly improve the quality, accessibility, affordability and sustainability of person centric health services and effectiveness of disease management. Digital health is a critical imperative today as it can democratize healthcare and fast track what our Region has been working intensely towards since 2014 - the universal health coverage,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region.
She was speaking at the inaugural of a two-day conference co-hosted by the Ministry and the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office in New Delhi on Monday.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has particularly highlighted the importance of the application of digital technologies to health and its potential to strengthen health systems, prevent disease and enhance service delivery at the global, national and sub-national level, she said.
“Digital health is a great enabler in delivery of health care services and has the potential to support overall universal health coverage targets,” Dr Mansukh Mandaviya,
Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India, said.
India has adopted a two-pronged approach with a focus on digital health through policy framework and by creating a digital eco system for path breaking interventions which focus on not just availability, accessibility, affordability but also equity of health services, the health minister said.
Addressing the conference, Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, said each country must have its own digital health strategy, which should be evolving and dynamic, and must be part of a network to benefit from skill sets from outside.
Leveraging India’s presidency of the G20 and the prolific actions and commitments of previous presidencies, the global conference is aimed at invigorating a high-level global dialogue on the foundations of digital health for UHC – the policies, interoperability, standards, capacity, public engagement, and governance required for an impactful transformation.
The conference is being attended by representatives and senior digital health delegates from about 40 WHO Member countries including G20 member states representatives, and global health development partners, philanthropies, multilateral financial institutions, health policy makers, digital health innovators and influencers.
Over the course of the two- days, the conference will discuss actions to establish a global institutional mechanism to support ministries of health, specifically in low-and middle-income countries, and their health development partners to review, and access proven digital health solutions. The approach is to move from strategies to action and create impact on the ground.
The deliberations will also focus on coordinated efforts to address the challenges of UHC with responsive deployment of current and emerging digital technologies.
The conference will discuss pooling investments in developing Global digital public health goods by creating a pledge fund that can support resource constrained settings to build-up governance, institutional and workforce capacities, and connect digital health initiatives.
Building an institutional framework, positioned within the WHO governance mechanism, to oversee the development of the global digital health mechanism, the common pathways of cross-border collaboration in services, solutions and innovations, and strategic management and administration of a pledge fund, is also expected to be discussed at the conference.