ICTs key to attainment of Sustainable Development Goal on health – ITU boss


A high-level inter-ministerial round table on digital health was held at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland today, bringing together Ministers of Telecommunication/ICT and Ministers of Health.

The Ministers discussed the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve universal health coverage, provide strategic opportunities for the full adoption of digital technology in the health sector and to promote cross sectoral collaboration, among others.

The round table meeting, which was a formal side event of the 69th World Health Assembly, was opened by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and the World Health Organization Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.

“ICTs empower billions of individuals around the world, and will be critical to the timely attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal on health,” said Mr Zhao. “We have the opportunity to transform how health care is delivered especially in the world’s poorest and remotest regions, and at the same time empower patients and citizens everywhere to intervene in their own health care.”

“The mobile phones we all carry in our pockets and bags may be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for achieving universal health coverage around the world,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at the World Health Organization. “That potential can only be realized if ministries of health and telecommunications collaborate.”

“The rapid growth of global interconnectivity through ICTs is opening new perspectives to help patients access better health and to provide new solutions and avenues for disease prevention, care and control,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “With more than 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, we have an enormous opportunity to improve on the delivery of health care, especially in rural and remote areas.”

The round table was preceded on Monday, 23 May by a high-level policy dialogue on digital health. Held within the framework of ITU’s m-Powering Development Initiative, under the theme “Digital Health for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All”, the meeting was attended by Ministers of Telecommunication/ICT as well as stakeholders from the private sector and non-governmental organizations in both health and telecommunication/ICT sectors.

Participants examined how ICTs can be a game changer to support the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals on health and universal health coverage, the impact of the Internet of Things (IOT), social media and big data in transforming health care.