The 152nd session of the WHO Executive Board meeting (#EB152) drew to a close this week, following a busy week of official proceedings, bilateral meetings and strengthening collaborations with global health partners. Transform Health is encouraged by the growing support for stronger health data governance and looks forward to building on this momentum as we look towards the 76th World Health Assembly (#WHA76) in May. 

As Member States met in Geneva for #EB152, Transform Health was calling for action on health data governance, including to ensure this is prioritised on the agenda of #WHA76 and to support a resolution, which would initiate the development of a global framework. 

Growing support for health data governance at #EB152

#EB152 saw increasing recognition from both governments and other stakeholders on the need to strengthen health data governance. We applaud the leadership of the government of the Maldives calling for sustainable mechanisms for health data governance during their intervention.  We are also encouraged by the numerous discussions we had with other Member States on the importance of taking action on this issue. During the session on UHC, many governments spoke to the importance of data in achieving UHC (e.g. Botswana, the Republic of Korea, to name a few) and the government of India highlighted the critical role of innovation and technology in primary health care systems – both of which require urgent action on health data governance. 

A growing constituency of non-state actors are also joining the movement for stronger health data governance. This pressing issue permeated across statements from non-state actors during official #EB152 proceedings, including our coalition statement, delivered by PATH, and other constituency statements delivered by the World Health Professions Alliance and by Global Health Council (on behalf of larger constituency groups). This builds on the call to action from more than 150 organisations (and growing) that are demanding urgent action from WHO and its Member States for a global health data governance framework.

Looking ahead towards WHA76

While health data governance was not included as a standalone item in the World Health Assembly (WHA) agenda approved by the Executive Board, this important issue has a clear place as part of other WHA discussions, such as on UHC. Data is an essential tool to strengthen health systems, respond to health emergencies, and advance Universal Health Coverage. Action to strengthen the governance of health data must therefore be prioritised as part of the UHC agenda.

As we look towards the 76th World Health Assembly in May 2023, Transform Health calls on Member States to:

  1. Prioritise health data governance and the need for a global framework as part of UHC discussions during #WHA76.
  2. Ensure that these discussions lead to clear action and a request for WHO to facilitate the process of developing a global health data governance framework, working together with Member States (for endorsement at the 77th WHA in May 2024).
  3. Request WHO to convene a technical briefing on Health data governance during #WHA76, to kick off a discussion on a global framework.
  4. Co-host a Member State-sponsored side event on health data governance at #WHA76 in May.
  5. Engage in the WHO-led event on health data governance being planned ahead of #WHA76. 

To fully harness its potential of data to improve health outcomes, while protecting from data misuse, it is vital that governments come together to strengthen the rules that govern data collection and use. A global regulatory framework, endorsed by governments through a World Health Assembly Resolution, would do just that by establishing a set of minimum standards which would inform national legislation, while also governing health data sharing across countries. This is vital to improve public trust in health data systems, foster data use for public good, improve health emergency response and further global health goals. 

Action on this pressing issue cannot wait. We must seize this opportunity to unlock the strength of data to deliver health for all at the upcoming World Health Assembly and across key discussions in the year ahead.