WHO expert panel on digital health meets for first time

World Health Organization

WHO
expert panel on digital health meets for first time

Plan
launched on accelerating use of digital technologies to meet global public
health needs

Geneva, 25
October 2019 – WHO is convening global experts to help shape the Organization’s
roadmap to advance the digital health ecosystem. The WHO
Digital Health Technical Advisory Group
met for the first time this
week to discuss topics ranging from data governance, to ethical and equitable
use of digital technologies, to helping communities benefit from proven and
cost-effective digital health solutions.

World
Health Assembly resolution WHA/71 A71 on digital health.

“All
governments are facing increasing demands to provide health services to their
citizens, and many digital technologies offer solutions to help meet these
needs,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But countries
require confidence in what works. The action plan agreed today focuses our
efforts on helping the world benefit from digital health technologies and
solutions while safeguarding the misuse of people’s data and protecting their
health.”

The two-day
meeting at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva led to an agreed action plan to focus
the expert group’s activities and priorities over the next two years.

Meeting
focused on better defining WHOs role in supporting global digital
transformation. Topics included:

Developing a
global framework for WHO to validate, implement and scale up digital health
technology and solutions.

Recommendations
for safe and ethical use of digital technologies to strengthen national health
systems by improving quality and coverage of care, increasing access to health
information.

Advice on
advocacy and partnership models to accelerate use of digital health
capabilities in countries to achieve better health outcomes.

Advice on
emerging digital health technologies with global reach and impact, so no one is
left behind.

Advisory
group co-chair Steve Davis, president and chief executive officer of global
health non-profit PATH, said the new plan provides direction to help WHO
maximize the potential of the digital health landscape and chart future trends,
tools and opportunities.

“The WHO
continues to demonstrate its strong commitment to harnessing the power of
digital technologies and data to address the world’s most pressing health
challenges through the launch of this new Digital Health Technical Advisory
Group. I am honored to be co-chairing this group that brings together diverse
experts from government, civil society, technology innovators, and NGOs,” said
Mr Davis. “We are committed to working with the WHO to identify sustainable and
scalable digital and data tools and approaches that meet global health needs.”

Bernardo Mariano, director of WHO’s Department of Digital
health and Innovation, said: “Digital technologies can play a powerful role in
improving the health of people worldwide.”

Digital
technologies for health

“WHO’s goal
is to ensure digital technologies for health are safe and that proven tools
reach everyone, everywhere,” Mr Mariano added. “Digital health can help expand
primary health care, allow health workers to fight resurgent or new diseases
and ensure people can benefit from the transformation in digital health. What
we call ‘digital health’ today will be, in future, known simply as the way we
deliver health services in the digital age.”

Technical
advisory group members will meet regularly over the coming year to implement
their work plan in support of WHO’s digital health agenda.

Representing
the public, private and social sectors, the experts will provide insights,
guidance, feedback, and new opportunities for WHO as it helps drive digital
health transformation in countries and globally. Members come from a wide array
of digital health fields, including artificial intelligence, virtual and
augmented reality, biomedical innovation, robotic surgery, and wearable
technologies; also represented are experts in health and wellness, ethics,
governance, security, economics and law.

Earlier this year, WHO established its first Digital Health Department to work on digital health technologies. World Health Assembly resolution WHA/71 A71 on digital health underpins this work.

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