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WHO Launches Global Initiative on Digital Health to Foster Knowledge Sharing

Written by : Jayati Dubey

February 21, 2024

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The platform is anticipated to democratize access to digital health technologies, especially for countries in the Global South.

In line with one of the three priority areas set during India's G20 presidency in 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) virtually launched the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH).

The GIDH serves as a platform designed for the global exchange of knowledge and digital health products among countries. At the launch event, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and India's representative to the UN, Arindam Bagchi, addressed the gathering.

Key Components of GIDH

The Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) aims to function as a network of networks incorporating four main components:

1. Country Needs Tracker: Monitoring and assessing the digital health requirements of countries.

2. Country Resource Portal: Mapping the available digital health resources within a country.

3. Transformation Toolbox: Sharing quality-assured digital tools for healthcare transformation.

4. Knowledge Exchange: Facilitating the exchange of knowledge among participating nations.

Achieving India’s G20 Presidency Vision

Mansukh Mandaviya highlighted the significance of achieving the vision of establishing an institutional framework for digital health, which was a key deliverable during India's G20 presidency.

Calling it a “momentous day”, Mandaviya said, “We have achieved the vision of establishing an institutional framework for digital health. This was a key deliverable of India’s G20 presidency that was agreed upon in the Gandhinagar meeting in the presence of Dr Tedros (WHO director-general). This is a testament to our shared goal of digital health.”

He emphasized the collaborative nature of the initiative, providing an institutional framework for digital health technologies globally. The platform is anticipated to democratize access to digital health technologies, especially for countries in the Global South.

Additionally, he called upon Saima Wazed, the newly appointed director of WHO-South East Asia Region, to actively support and promote the adoption of digital health. Mandaviya emphasized that the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) is dedicated to establishing a cohesive electronic health record system across India.

Pandemic Paved The Way for Digital Transformation

Arindam Bagchi acknowledged the catalyzing role of the pandemic in driving digital transformation. India, notably, implemented digital tracking of COVID-19 cases and conducted the largest vaccination drive through the CoWIN platform.

He emphasized issuing digital, verifiable vaccination certificates and highlighted initiatives such as the ABDM, which is working toward creating a seamless electronic health record system in India. Additionally, the E Sanjeevni teleconsultation platform has provided 140 million consultations to date.

WHO Supporting Countries in Digital Health Goals

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, outlined how GIDH aims to support countries.

He said, “GIDH will support countries in three ways – by listening to their needs, by aligning resources to avoid fragmentation and overlap, and by providing quality assured products. There is fragmentation and overlap because new tools are built without following common standards or shared vision. Health workers should not have to carry different devices for different diseases or have to maintain both electronic and physical records. We need systems that can speak to each other. Right now wheels are being re-invented because of poor knowledge sharing, sometimes within countries.”

Tomas Lamanauskas, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, highlighted the potential of digital health. While nearly half of the world's population may lack access to essential health services, almost 90% have access to a 3G connection, demonstrating the potential for digital health solutions.

The GIDH aims to leverage this potential to bridge healthcare gaps and ensure the widespread adoption of digital health technologies.

The launch of the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) marks a significant step toward achieving a unified, collaborative approach to digital health on a global scale.

By addressing the specific needs of countries, fostering knowledge exchange, and providing quality-assured tools, GIDH seeks to enhance the implementation of digital health technologies worldwide.


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