I’ll see you at the report launch: Lessons from GHFutures2030 by Micaela Neumann

I joined the Governing health futures 2030 Commission Secretariat in September 2019, during the mad rush to develop background papers for the 1st Commission Meeting, which took place 30-31 October, and secure the Commission’s brand identity. It was impossible to predict that it would be the only in-person meeting of the Commission, occurring months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and a new era in digital health.
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Those weeks marked the beginning of an incredible experience working for the Commission, joining as a Policy & Research Officer to support Commissioners in the research, writing, and revision of the report, and also taking up the role of Communications Coordinator to build our audience, develop many of our external events, and oversee all public-facing content about the Commission. I’m so proud of our more than 1500 Twitter followers, who are engaging with us before we even have any report content available to the public! (To those followers, hang in there, the report launch is only a few months away, and it’s worth the wait.)

This summer, I’m leaving the Commission Secretariat for another job opportunity, but not without sharing a few lessons from my GHFutures2030 experience.

First, while digital technologies and data to accelerate the attainment of universal health coverage is on trend, progress is always powered by people. Don’t get me wrong. We need improved financing for fundamental digital infrastructures as a matter of health equity, but people are what connect us, and they are also what drive health outcomes. Governing health futures is not about digital technologies and data on their own; it’s about the policy environment we shape today to harness the potential of digital technologies and data to make a real and felt impact on people’s health and well-being, while equally safeguarding them from the harms of digital technology and data misuse. The people we are particularly concerned about in our report are children and young people, who require unique digital rights and also who are leveraging these tools to shape and imagine health futures in novel and important ways.

Secondly, to govern digital innovation, we must innovate governance. What is special about this Commission is that, not only did it bring together two high-calibre Co-chairs and 17 global, interdisciplinary experts to set the direction of the report, but it also is fuelled by the daily efforts of a young and committed Secretariat, including an active and engaged Youth Team and GHFutures2030 Youth Network. In addition to the multilateral engagement that the Commission, its partners, and digital health collaboratives promote, this Commission is about intergenerational leadership. There are so many people, with ages across as many as six decades, paving the way and fortifying the path to better health futures through their support to this report.

Governing health futures requires a global perspective on the direct and indirect impacts of digital technologies and data on people’s health and well-being.

Finally, while it is becoming impossible to envision health without the influence of digital technologies, we must understand the nuance of what this means. There are people who have abundant access to digital technologies that affect their individual or national population health and how they manage it, but there are also those whose health is affected by their lack of access to these resources or their invisibility within datafied health systems. Governing health futures requires a global perspective on the direct and indirect impacts of digital technologies and data on people’s health and well-being. Sustainable, better health futures rely on accountability and transparency about who these digital technologies and data for health serve, and how to course correct as we drive toward health equity.

I have so much gratitude for the Co-chairs, Commissioners, partners, and, especially, the Secretariat with whom I’ve worked alongside to deliver this report to the public, and ensure its launch and dissemination is a success. With these experiences, I am confident that we can create the health futures that we imagine, through collaborative partnerships, intergenerational dialogue, and innovative governance. I’ll see you at the report launch, connected around the world by seen and unseen digital infrastructure, to celebrate the enormous endeavour of this report and the unforgettable people behind it. And, if you don’t already, make sure to follow us on Twitter.