Another World Health Assembly (WHA) has come to an end. After two years of virtual assemblies, of following official proceedings online, with limited opportunities to meet and engage with stakeholders, it was great to feel the buzz again of one of the largest annual gatherings of the global health community. However, we must recognise that many were (and continue to be) excluded from such global gatherings simply because they don’t hold the “right” passport or visa. Much more must be done to ensure inclusive and meaningful engagement from all parts of the world, including holding more of these meetings in low and lower-middle income countries and facilitating equitable participation.
Transform Health went into the WHA with clear calls - for Member States to endorse a new set of equity and rights-based Health Data Governance Principles and to support the development of a global framework. These are critical milestones towards maximising the public value of health data whilst protecting individual rights, and important for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) progress and pandemic preparedness and response.
While not on the official agenda at this year’s WHA, it was great to see so much traction for our priorities. Between side events, bilateral meetings and strategising sessions, digital health and health data governance were clearly high on people’s agendas, leading to growing support, strengthened partnerships and clear commitments and actions to drive these issues forward. And now some highlights!
Growing support for a global health data governance framework
From the launch of the Health Data Governance Principles on the 7th of April (World Health Day) to the World Health Assembly in May, there has been a growing momentum and support for this agenda. In the lead up to WHA, a number of global and regional events convened stakeholders on the issue, including the Asia eHealth Information Network’ AeHIN Hour; the Central American Network of Health Informatics (RECAINSA)’s regional roundtables; the global Health Data Collaborative webinar; among others.
Transform Health went into the WHA with clear calls - for Member States to endorse a new set of equity and rights-based Health Data Governance Principles and to support the development of a global framework.
At WHA75, Transform Health, together with coalition partners FIND, Fondation Botnar, PATH, PharmAccess, PMNCH and UNITE, organised a side event on “Strengthening the governance of health data”. The standing room only event in Geneva, with many more joining online, heard multi-stakeholder perspectives on the need for action on this agenda, followed by government responses from Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and France. The event saw huge support for the need for stronger health data governance, including a commitment from the Government of Cameroon to sponsor a resolution on a Global Framework at next year's WHA! We also heard encouraging remarks from WHO for Transform Health to continue to build a movement on this agenda and welcoming our partnership. More highlights on Twitter!
The Principles have now been endorsed by nearly 100 organisations from different sectors, including most recently by the World Bank. We encourage further endorsements (including from governments!), as a critical milestone towards a global framework. We must build on this momentum as we look towards the WHO Executive Board meeting in January and next year’s Assembly to ensure that health data governance is on the official agenda with Member States backing a resolution for a global framework.
The event saw huge support for the need for stronger health data governance, including a commitment from the Government of Cameroon to sponsor a resolution on a Global Framework at next year's WHA!
Strengthening partnerships to support digital health investment
Our breakfast briefing on “Investing in the digital transformation of health systems” saw a full house to discuss the need for increased and better coordinated investment. Co-hosted with coalition partners Joep Lange Institute, PATH and PharmAccess, the event brought together insights from WHO, governments (Nigeria and the UK), the private sector, and development partners (World Bank), to build momentum and partnership on the issue. This was a key touch point in the lead up to the launch of our case for investment at this year’s World Health Summit in October. Check out some highlights on Twitter!
Turning steps into leaps as we look ahead
Transform Health is excited and encouraged by the growing support for digital health and data, recognising their incredible potential to help accelerate UHC progress. And we are thankful for the commitment and support of our coalition partners and beyond to drive action on these issues. The World Health Assembly saw encouraging steps in the right direction, but now we need even bigger leaps to turn that into concerted action in the months and years ahead to ensure the right regulations and investment in place that can deliver better health access and outcomes for all. We look forward to advancing these agendas with all of our partners!