One year ago, a joint Lancet and Financial Times Commission published its report on governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world. The report describes how digital technologies and data are driving significant health transformations in all regions of the world through their application in health systems, health care and self-management of health status and behaviours. We observed that digital transformations have the potential to bring both enormous long-term benefits and substantial disruption in many different areas of health and health care—in fact, the effect of digital transformations is now so pervasive that we argue it has become a dominant prism through which we understand and address people’s health and well-being.
Our report considered how different approaches to governing digital transformations could accelerate progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) and impact the health and well-being of young people. We challenge policymakers and other actors to radically rethink how they can realise the full potential of digital technologies and data to advance health and well-being for all.
Our recommendations focused on strengthening governance in three main areas. Firstly, policymakers and other actors need to recognise the digital ecosystem as an increasingly important determinant of health and establish governance frameworks and regulatory responses to address their direct and indirect effects. Secondly, all actors must adopt a mission-oriented, precautionary, and value-based approach to governance in order to build public trust in digital health ecosystems, address the unequal distribution of power and resources within and between countries, and close digital divides. Thirdly, young people should be enfranchised to co-design and critically engage with digital health ecosystems.
Since our report was published, we have worked with partners to widely disseminate our findings among different audiences. We have begun to explore how our recommendations, including our call for a solidarity-based approach to data governance, can be translated into practical guidance for policymakers and digital health actors.
Improving the health, well-being, and agency of young people has remained at the core of our work. Our GHFutures2030 Youth Network and team of Regional Youth Champions have actively engaged in global and regional platforms to amplify the findings of the Commission’s report and voice their own views on digital transformations of health. We are working closely with organisations like the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) to build the digital governance capacity of the next generation of health leaders, in particular we recently held a three part capacity building workshop series alongside the UNGA on Strengthening the capacity of the health workforce within the digital transformations of health.
Many of the issues and concepts highlighted by the Commission, such as health data governance, digital determinants of health, and digital health citizenship have gained traction. The UN, for example, has recently announced its intention to develop a global framework for data governance and more than 120 organisations have endorsed a set of health data governance principles, grounded in public health values. Advancing digital health citizenship was among the priorities for the French Presidency of the European Union Council. Awareness continues to grow about the interconnections between digitalisation and both human and planetary health.
Without faster and more coordinated action, the governance challenges identified by the Commission will persist and we will miss opportunities to harness digital transformations in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
That is why efforts to catalyse implementation of the Commission’s recommendations must continue.
As the Commission draws to a close, we are preparing to establish a Digital Transformations of Health Lab (DTH-Lab) which will be a dynamic, multidisciplinary platform, working across different geographies and through partnerships to drive innovation and disruption in governance, policy, and system change. The Lab will extend the Commission’s research agenda and translate its recommendations into tangible pathways for governments and other stakeholders to take forward. With a hope to facilitate the inclusive development and testing of governance models and tools for digital health citizenship. We will also collaborate with partners to shift public and political agendas in support of more value-driven and youth-centred system design and governance. We are already working with young people to imagine digital first health systems that are more responsive to their health priorities through a series of foresight workshops. Through such cumulative efforts, the DTH-Lab hopes to build trust in digital health ecosystems which requires inclusive governance architectures and a whole-of-society effort. We invite all stakeholders to join us in realising a health future where digital transformations successfully bridge health divides and deliver better health for all.