In a satellite session to the Geneva Health Forum 2018 hosted by the Networks Medicus Mundi International and Medicus Mundi Switzerland, we looked behind the rhetoric of the Forum’s theme of “Precision Global Health in the Digital Age”.

The rapid propagation of digital technology in the health sector is not only fuelled by changing demographics, scientific progress and societal expectations, but also driven by the health technology industry and by actors in international health policy and cooperation. In January, the WHO Executive Board discussed the use of appropriate digital technologies for public health. The overall tone was optimistic to enthusiastic, and there have been only few critical statements such as those by the World Medical Association and by Medicus Mundi International.

In fact, digital health technology needs a sound assessment with a focus on its impact on public health – and this requires also a political debate: Will the new technologies really be the “revolution” expected in the provision of universal access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment as part of universal health coverage? How to make sure that they will not rather lead to new dependencies and new inequity and add to the burden and confusion of those who are responsible for health care planning and delivery?

“Digital technologies, such as mobile wireless technologies, have the potential to revolutionize how populations interact with national health services.” (WHO)

“Digital technologies have the potential to transform many fields of human activity, including healthcare. However, their impact can be predictable and beneficial only if there is strong public control on the use of such technologies.” (2018 WHO EB142 – MMI statement on mHealth)

“The implications of technology in terms of opportunities, increasing recurrent costs, additional support services, change in medical practice and training needs are often underestimated. As a result, the widespread irrational use of technology leads to wasting of scarce resources and weakens health systems performance. The most current knowledge is required to ensure that health service provision makes the best use of available technology.” (Swiss TPH)

Our session at the GHF2018

Based on two case studies presented, expert panellists and all participants  discussed the challenge of ownership, integration and adaption of technology-driven innovation within a national health policy and a people centred health system – as a public health challenge for all countries in the global South and North.

Presenters and panellists

  • Antoine Geissbühler, eHealth and Telemedicine Division, Geneva University Hospitals (expert panellist)
  • Bettina Borisch, World Federation of Public Health Association (expert panellist)
    – see her keynote published in the MMI Network News
  • Kristina Keitel, Swiss TPH (presenter)
  • Laetitia van Haren, SAHFA smart access to health for all (presenter)
    – the PPT presentatioin is available upon request directly from the presenter
  • Thomas Vogel, Medicus Mundi Switzerland (introduction and moderator)

Partner session “Technology for maternal, newborn and child care: can we rely on it for the future?, 16.00 to 17.30 hrs

  • Our side event took place after the formal GHF parallel session on “Technology for maternal, newborn and child care: can we rely on it for the future?” hosted by our Network member Enfants du Monde, and taking place from 16.00 to 17.30 hrs (Parallel Session PS3-2) in the same room.



“’Imagine, having to rely on your mobile telephone for light while attending a mother giving birth.’ Elisa Veini talked to midwives & nurses in Malawi and wrote a blog about their stories.” (Wemos)