The main objective of health systems is to be responsive and equitable with the goal of improving population health – all of which were jeopardized since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite external stresses, health systems must protect and improve the health of people worldwide. To ensure that everyone benefits from digital transformations of health and health care, there is an urgent need to orient digital health priorities towards the establishment of a strong health workforce taking into consideration the critical role young people play.
Being a major driver and a novel intervention during these difficult times, digital health has proven to be a key solution to alleviate the burden placed on health systems concerning accessibility of healthcare services by physical distancing and, in turn, reducing pressure on the health workforce. Nevertheless, despite the significant advantages that digital health offers, we should also be aware of the equity challenges that implementing new tools have and work collectively to overcome them.
One of the main challenges is the lack of data for evaluating and improving the tools. The inaccessibility to tools necessary for digital health and its implementation is highlighted in populations with low socioeconomic status. These include low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) wherein improvements to infrastructure and delivery of digital health resources need to be prioritized. This could impede the progress of the UN SDG 3 of Good Health and Well-being by not knowing the full extent as to whether or not digital health will improve healthcare and service delivery in resource-limited settings.
If such challenges are accounted for, digital health could be used as a strategic tool to bridge the gap of health equity globally as many will have access to health irrespective of physical location. Youth and the health workforce can overcome these challenges by further developing and researching evidence- and measurement-based approaches. The absence of personnel to provide adequate training to staff or technical skills is one of the underlying causes. That is where students and young health professionals can play a crucial role in fostering the development and implementation of solutions by being included in these settings.
There is room for advancements in coordination between educational institutions, health provider facilities, and governments to bolster and reform the medical school curricula through improved participation and inclusion of enthusiastic students that have proven to have an unbreakable sense of collaboration.
In summary, these difficult times have reinforced the need to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and innovate solutions collectively. Students and young professionals are resilient and should be included in solutions that aim to strengthen health systems through equitable digital health solutions.
Contributors from IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations):
- Andrés Quintero Leyra
- Marethe de Vos
- Mădălina Elena Mandache
- Mohamed Hoosen Suleman
Contributions from GHFutures2030
- Whitney Gray, MPH | MIA
- Dr Enow Awah Georges Stevens, MD
- Digital health [Internet]. Who.int. 2022 [cited 9 May 2022]. Available from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/digital-health#tab=tab_1
- Crawford A, Serhal E. Digital Health Equity and COVID-19: The Innovation Curve Cannot Reinforce the Social Gradient of Health. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2020;22(6):e19361.
- Governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world-a joint The Lancet and Financial Times Commission. Kickbusch I, Agrawal A, Jack A, Lee N, Horton R. Lancet. 2019 Oct 12;394(10206):1309. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32181-6. Epub 2019 Sep 20. PMID: 31548090
- 152nd WHO Executive Board Meeting
- IFMSA, FIGO and WATOG joint statement on abortion and contraception in medical education
- Youth Action for a Healthy Future for All! | Universal Health Coverage Day 2022
- Join the IFMSA Journey! 3rd call for International Teams for the term 2022/2023
- IFMSA Delegation at Open Education Conference 2021