Future health depends on radical change in digital technologies: Report
Digital technologies are transforming all areas of life and health, a trend that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the benefits of these advances are not reaching everyone equally
The digital transformation can improve health for all people around the world.
But this is only possible if digital technology is governed in the public interest rather than for private profit, and the health for all, values of democracy, equity, solidarity, inclusion, and human rights are put at the core of its design and use, according to a new Lancet and Financial Times Commission report on Governing Health Futures 2030: growing up in a digital world.
Digital technologies are transforming all areas of life and health, a trend that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the benefits of these advances are not reaching everyone equally.
The report highlights how limited governance together with the accumulation of data and power by the world's big technology companies and governments for surveillance, are exacerbating health inequities, eroding trust, and compromising human rights.
It warns that following the current path of data-extractive, commercially-driven digital transformations, will fail to deliver health benefits to all. Instead, a radical new approach is needed that redirects digital technologies to advance universal health coverage ensuring the gains in digital health for all.
With access to quality health information and services increasingly reliant on digital technologies and data, the Commission also calls for digital access and digital literacy to be recognised as a key determinant of health, and to ensure that every person has safe and affordable access to the Internet by 2030.
The Lancet-FT Commission is the result of two years of work from 19 leading experts from 14 countries, with backgrounds in global health, clinical medicine, public health, mental health, digital media, ICT, social science, economics, and politics, as well as global consultations with youth groups.
"Digital technologies offer extraordinary potential to improve the health of all people around the world, reduce health inequities, close gender gaps, and protect the most vulnerable", says Co-Chair of the Commission, Professor Ilona Kickbusch from the Global Health Centre in Switzerland.
The Commission emphasises that digital transformations shape the health both directly and indirectly through a wide range of social, economic, commercial, and environmental factors that affect health.
According to the report, the pandemic has laid bare the extent to which the societies -- and their health -- depend on digital technologies to function and the power of large providers and platforms.
To make real health gains and mitigate potential harms, the Commission advocates widespread reform to increase public trust, rapidly strengthen the governance of digital technologies and health data, and to develop more equitable tools for health care.