WHO/Europe Member States adopt the Region’s first-ever digital health action plan

From September 12 to 14, after two years online, the 53 Member States from all over Europe and Central Asia were invited to the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Europe (RC72) which took place in Israel, in Tel Aviv. Among the action plans approved, one concerns one of WHO/Europe’s flagship initiatives, digital health, which aims to take advantage of the digital transformation in Europe and Central Asia with the aim of improving health. and the well-being of the people.

Digital health is one of the 4 focus areas of the WHO European Program of Work 2020-2025 (ETP) “Delivering as One for Better Health in Europe”. This new action plan is a concrete step towards realizing the TEP through digital tools, including AI, big data, blockchain, health data, health information systems, l infodemic, the Internet of Things, interoperability and telemedicine.

Developed following consultations with partners and the 53 countries of the Region, it takes into consideration countries’ priorities in these and other areas, as well as their needs and challenges, including issues faced by vulnerable groups. to access digital health services.

The adoption of this new action plan on September 12 recognizes the essential role and potential of digital tools in the health sector, and builds on the lessons learned over nearly 3 years with the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19. It should thus make it possible to progress towards universal health coverage, to protect populations from health emergencies and to promote health and well-being in the Region.

Hans Henri P. Kluge, physician and Regional Director of WHO/Europe, says:

“Digital health should be seen as a means to achieve health goals, not as the solution in itself to health problems or needs.”

He adds :

“To be useful and truly promote better health, digital tools require good governance, appropriate legislation and policies that encourage their healthy use while providing the people who use them – healthcare workers and patients – with training and support. support they need to make the most of it. »

Digital tools to meet challenges in the field of health

At RC 72, delegates adopted blueprints to better target and end several diseases that remain a challenge, including cervical cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. transmissible, as well as viral hepatitis.

They adopted the first-ever European framework for action to achieve the highest possible level of health for the estimated 135 million people with disabilities in the WHO European Region and also endorsed a framework to address the harm caused by alcohol in the Region, where 2,500 people die every day from alcohol-related diseases.

The more widespread adoption of digital tools for health can really help governments and people in the Region address these current health challenges, including those brought about by the pandemic.

Digital health makes it possible to extend the concept of electronic health (e-health) to areas such as:

  • telemedicine, which allows access to health services regardless of where you live;
  • health data and information systems – providing authorities with the information they need to develop health policies;
  • AI and big data, which help clinicians, providers and decision-makers plan or implement interventions;
  • the fight against the online infodemic, to help people trust high-quality health information.

Putting the patient at the center of digital solutions

For digital solutions to really take hold, it is necessary that the people who use them have the appropriate training and knowledge, and therefore provide them.

Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, Physician and Director of the Division of Country Health Policy and Systems at WHO/Europe, says:

“WHO/Europe is here to help countries leverage the use of digital tools in an inclusive and transparent way, while protecting people’s privacy and special needs. »

She continues:

“The digital literacy of all users should be one of the key elements of any effective digital health strategy. Together with the public authorities in our Region, we are working on solutions that put the needs of patients and healthcare workers at the centre. »

The plan encourages countries to prioritize improving digital health literacy while recognizing the needs of citizens and health workers and promoting an integrated approach to care that institutionalizes digital health in the Region. .

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WHO/Europe Member States adopt the Region’s first-ever digital health action plan

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