Nº 2 2014 > E-health
Disseminating knowledge of ICT applications is one of the main strategies used to mainstream ICT for socio-economic development. In collaboration with key stakeholders, the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) has developed a twofold strategy to achieve this goal based on the publication of specialized reports in the form of handbooks and guidelines and the organization of targeted regional and global events on ICT applications.
In the area of health, for example, a handbook on “Scaling e‑Health Services in step with ICT Transformation” made available to health authorities in ITU Member States in 2011 detailed the e‑health services which can be deployed immediately with available ICT infrastructure as opposed to those which can only be acquired as that infrastructure develops.
An ITU report published in July 2013 on the use of ICT for improving information and accountability for women’s and children’s health, highlights the contributions that ICT applications can provide in fast tracking the fulfillment of Millennium Development Goals 4 (to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate) and 5 (to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio) by 2015.
In 2013, ITU and the World Health Organization (WHO) created an online repository to collect information on operational e‑health projects around the world in order to demonstrate the effective use of ICT in healthcare delivery. All administrations and stakeholders have been encouraged to provide input to the repository that will contribute to the sharing of experiences and good practices regarding e‑health initiatives.
Between 2010 and 2013, more than 1000 participants from over 50 countries benefited from some 10 global and regional ITU-led events to share knowledge on ICT best practices for e‑health. These events included:
- The e‑health pavilion at ITU World Telecom 2011 that showcased innovative and emerging e‑health solutions.
- The February 2012 workshop on How e‑Science Can Help Solve Pressing Societal Challenges: Fostering a Global Effort to Develop a Worldwide e‑Infrastructure for Computational Neuroscientists to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease.
- The ITU booth at the 2012 Geneva Health Forum that disseminated ICT applications to strengthen health systems and improve healthcare services delivery, especially in low-resource settings.
- The April 2012 workshop on “e‑Health Standards and interoperability” that initiated a dialogue towards a comprehensive road map on global standards development, interoperability, and adoption for enabling the sustainable development of e‑health services.
- The September 2012 Expert Group Meeting on “m‑Health: Towards Better Care, Cure and Prevention in Europe” that shared best practices in the implementation of m‑health while addressing the urgent need to focus on various policy, regulatory, technical and business-related challenges.
- The “e‑Health track” at ITU Telecom World 2012 covering both B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) e‑health models in collaboration with Verizon and McKinsey.
- The February 2013 regional workshop on “e‑Health services in low-resource settings” held in Tokyo (Japan), in collaboration with the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation.
- The 2011 Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on ICT Applications, organized in partnership with various other United Nations agencies, together with ICT industry leaders, was attended by 168 participants from 17 countries and served to enhance partnerships with key stakeholders.
Enhancing national e‑health planning and skills
In 2012, a joint ITU-WHO “National e‑Health Strategy Toolkit” was published to respond to the growing need for specialized skills and capacities in ITU Member States. So far, five countries have adopted the toolkit to develop or update their national strategies while many others are applying it in their national planning.
To assist countries in implementing an integrated e‑health strategy, build capacities related to e‑health planning, and support the initiation of e‑health planning processes, a joint ITU-WHO training workshop was organized for Ministry of Health officials and ICT experts from 15 countries in July 2012.
In Asia-Pacific, regional workshops were organized with WHO in Manila (Philippines) in September 2013, Bangkok (Thailand) in September-October 2013, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Dakar (Senegal) in October 2013, with a view to supporting innovation through ICT to improve information and accountability for women’s and children’s health and to develop participants’ understanding of the main steps involved in developing a national e‑health strategy.
Supporting the use of mobile for health
ITU and WHO launched a joint initiative to use mobile technologies to address non-communicable diseases through scalable m‑health solutions during ITU Telecom World 2012. The four-year work plan targets eight countries in the areas of prevention, treatment and policy enforcement. In the Americas region, Costa Rica was the first country to implement this initiative by launching a smoking cessation programme using mobile to help smokers quit the habit. In the Africa region, Senegal is the second country to be part of the initiative to use mobile for diabetes prevention and control.
Through partnership development with WHO and industry associations such as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Bupa (a healthcare company) and the Verizon Foundation, additional budgetary resources have been made available to support ICT use for maternal and child health care and to combat non-communicable diseases.
Two events were organized during the WHO General Assembly in May 2013 and during the United Nations Economic and Social Council meeting in July 2013 to raise awareness about the potential of mobile health applications, especially with regard to the reduction of non-communicable diseases.