Closing remarks by the Regional Director at the Fourth Summit of the Global Digital Health Partnership

26 February 2019, New Delhi, India

Excellencies, dignitaries on the dais, distinguished participants and partners, ladies and gentlemen,

We have come to the close of this Fourth Summit of the Digital Global Health Partnership.

Deliberations have been robust.

New fields of inquiry have been explored.

And solutions to the barriers countries face have been identified and examined.

But even as this summit closes, together we have opened a new chapter in the application of digital technology to health and its potential to strengthen health systems, prevent disease and enhance service delivery at the global, national and sub-national level.

The Joint Declaration on Digital Health for Sustainable Development is indeed a landmark document.

I am certain it will promote the stakeholder engagement needed to retain momentum while providing a clear set of points for Member States to act on.

WHO is pleased to support the Declaration’s development and the many Member State initiatives it builds on, including WHA58.28, endorsed in 2005, WHA66.24, endorsed in 2013, and WHA71.7, endorsed just last year.

Importantly, that last resolution was introduced and led by India, reflecting the WHO South-East Asia Region’s broader commitment to leveraging digital health as a key component of its drive towards universal health coverage, which it is has pursued as a Flagship Priority since 2014.

It is no coincidence that in that very year – 2014 – the Region’s Strategy for Strengthening eHealth was operationalized following intense Member State consultations.

I am pleased the Region’s Member States will convene once again tomorrow and Friday for further technical consultations on digital health policy and practice.

I am certain the opportunity to link these consultations with the GDHP’s deliberations and global, regional and national digital health strategies and plans will be grasped.

Though progress, as always, can be accelerated, as you will have heard over the past two days, our Region has made significant gains.

A substantial majority of the Region’s Member States, for example, are now implementing digital health, or eHealth strategies and plans.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste have initiated district-level reporting of indicators in health management information systems using DHIS2 software.

India has launched its path-breaking Integrated Health Information Platform, which provides detailed geospatial data to help manage disease outbreaks and other events.

The Region-wide uptake of patient-level digital health applications and services, including electronic medical records, telemedicine and mHealth apps and solutions for patients and health care providers, has meanwhile been inspiring to witness. These interventions will be particularly useful in better reaching remote communities.

Importantly, hospitals across the Region are now almost fully digital.

Each one of these initiatives is to be commended. They can also be built on.

Having been apprised of the deliberations at the Ministerial Conclave on the Digital Health Ecosystem for UHC, I have full confidence that is precisely what will happen.

Moreover, I am sure the reports and recommendations from each of the five GDHP workstreams, including on interoperability, clinical and consumer engagement, policy environments, evidence and evaluation, and cyber security, will serve as excellent reference documents for Member States moving forward.

As always, WHO’s commitment to supporting Member State efforts and the ambition they represent is assured.

I once again commend the development and issuing of the Joint Declaration, the planning and organization that went into it by Member States and partners from across the world, and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s exceptional hosting of this event.

I look forward to tomorrow’s symposium and the regional consultation that will follow, and to the opportunity to sustain what we have already achieved, to accelerate our progress, and to harness eHealth’s full innovative potential.

Thank you very much.