Keeping the Promise: Delivering on UHC with Digital Health

In September, member states came together in New York for the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and unanimously adopted the Political Declaration on UHC. In the declaration, heads of state committed to ensuring UHC for their population so all people can access quality health care without facing financial hardship. Now, three months later on UHC Day, we must reflect on how we can implement the Political Declaration and keep the promise made in New York to deliver equitable health systems that leave no one behind.

One way we can keep the promise is by investing and adopting digital health tools. UHC will not be reached only with the resources⁠—both financial and human⁠—that we have now. Innovation is needed to create efficiencies to maximize resources and reach the millions of people that are currently without care. I believe that digital health will not just help achieve UHC, it is necessary to achieve UHC in its totality.

Decision-makers are also seeing the inevitable need for digital health tools to serve their communities far and wide. In Isiolo County, one of Kenya’s “UHC counties,” the local government decided to go paperless in delivering community health. A rural county, many residents of Isiolo reside far away from health centers.  Working in partnership with the country governments, Living Goods is providing robust digital technology to 720 government CHWs to deliver primary care to more than 40,000 households across Isiolo, Merti, and Garbatulla sub-counties. The initiative will also vastly increase CHW coverage for residents in Isiolo County while supporting improved reporting on health and UHC.

Programs like the one in Isiolo could help guide future counties and countries in achieving UHC through digital interventions. And the fact that they’re digital means it’s easier to replicate. The systems are already set up, they just need to be customized and tailored to be made applicable to different country and regional contexts. If these were manual programs, the start-up up time and costs would be much more with unnecessary delays.

But digital health is more than an intervention. It’s an illustrative tool utilized to improve services. Digital platforms generate data that can show us the big picture of a health system: What’s working? What’s not working? Where can improvements be made? We need to continuously respond and adjust how and what services are delivered to achieve UHC. Additionally, data can help us target interventions to those who need it most. Living Goods digital health tools harness demographic, behavior, and health information to predict negative health outcomes and optimize our CHWs time and resources accordingly to increase their impact and reach. That means we’re reaching patients and preventing adverse health outcomes before they happen.

Last, but not least, digital health platforms can provide the data needed to hold decision-makers accountable for the promises they made on UHC. Tracking where funding is allocated and the results from UHC programs, communities and CSOs can advocate for needed changes and priorities for UHC. How can we know if our leaders are keeping the promise of UHC if we cannot monitor their interventions?

As we all work together to reach UHC by 2030, the focus must be on digital health tools. These tools are for everyone from the rich to the poor, from the trained to the untrained. The digital revolution is spreading rapidly, and we must harness it to increase the impact of community health workers to reach the last mile and achieve UHC.

Written By

Asif Akram

Chief Technology Officer

Asif brings extensive experience establishing, leading, and directing multi-disciplinary teams for global brand leaders and FTSE companies to Living Goods. Before his role as Living Goods’ Chief Technology Officer, Asif led technical aspects of various public health projects in Imperial College, London, and LKC School of Medicine, Singapore. He was part of the faculties of Cambridge University and Oxford University and contributed to various scientific and medical projects. Asif holds an MSc degree in Computer Science and BSc degree in Chemical Engineering.

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