G20 First-time Released Report on Digital Health Interventions for Pandemic Management

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The first G20 report in area of digital health, Report on Digital Health Implementation Approach to Pandemic Management, was announced in advent of the G20 Summit. This report promptly outlines digital health emergency responses landscape and proposed actions and implementation recommendations. WHO assumes leadership in multiple strategic recommendation areas in this report, and is committed to support countries to enhance capacity in leveraging digital intervention for emergency response through strengthened international collaboration.  

Creation of G20 Digital Health Taskforce

During the Saudi Arabian G20 presidency, a G20 Digital Health Taskforce was created by endorsement of the Health Ministers. The aim of the Taskforce is to strengthen international collaboration on leveraging digital health interventions, addressing challenges in access to foundational requirements and supporting policy making. In response to the Covid-19 emergency, in April 2020, the taskforce started to tackle the pandemic challenge by bringing together 17 countries, international organization, including WHO, ITU, OECD, Global Digital Health Partnership (GDPH), Global Fund, and UNICEF to explore mechanisms to harness the digital health interventions for Covid-19 emergency response.  ‘The pandemic has revealed our vulnerability, but the Digital Health Taskforce confirms that today sharing resources, utilities and expertise can go across national borders and beyond.’  Dr Mona AlMehaid, Saudi Arabia G20 Digital Health Lead, Ministry of Health Saudi Arabia, stated.

Launch of G20 Report on Digital Health Implementation Approach to Pandemic Management

The first G20 report in the area of digital health, G20 Report on Digital Health Implementation Approach to Pandemic Management, was launched by the Taskforce. ‘This report provides the basis of a blueprint for countries to use digital health interventions for emergencies and in future, and it supports countries to select information and tools relevant to each country’s health situation, regulatory environment, and digital maturity.’ Colleen Brooks, from the G20 Digital Health Taskforce Secretariat explains the objectives of the report. Based on data collected by the Saudi G20 Digital Health Secretariat, this report provides timely information to facilitate countries’ digital health emergency responses with proposed actions and implementation resources/recommendations. The information covered the whole circle of emergency response, including preparation and initiation, prevention and triage, tracking, tracing and testing, treatment and vaccine, and post-pandemic preparation. 11 recommendations have been raised for future work, among which WHO takes leadership in multiple areas:

  1. Support countries documenting digital health maturity in key ‘building blocks’ areas including: leadership and governance; strategy and investment; legislation, policy, and compliance; workforce; standards and interoperability; and infrastructure;
  2. Support international collaboration of countries in developing data standards and interoperability specifications for all types of surveillance; (co-lead with ITU);
  3. Support international collaboration in determining the best process for supplementing the available information;
  4. Support open source digital health applications to be compliant with interoperability  standards and specifications;
  5. Support sharing telemedicine tools and platforms for free/open source during a state of emergency, where these tools are not available.

WHO is committed to take leadership to strengthen international cooperation and digital health  capacity building of countries’ response to emergencies, and will continue this effort together with G20, to enhance global health system strengthening, building on  lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, and will continue this dialogue in G20 2021 hosted by Italy, stated Bernardo Mariano Junior, Chief Information Officer, Director of Department of Digital Health and Innovation, World Health Organization.  

The report can be downloaded from digitalhealthtaskforce.org.

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