A new global initiative to build trusted digital-first health systems

October 16, 2023
Digital Health
The newly established DTH-Lab will take forward recommendations outlined in the Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing Health Futures 2030 report, which called on governments, technology companies and other actors to build trusted digital-first health systems that are supported by value-based governance and action to address the digital determinants of health. The evolution of the Commission to a policy laboratory reflects our belief that addressing the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation requires continuous experimentation, innovation, and adaptation. A laboratory with multiple nodes across the globe is essential to co-design and test solutions that are based on local environments and priorities. The DTH-Lab aims to become a dynamic space for collaborative thinking and co-creating solutions with young people – the next generation of health professionals, policymakers, and innovators – playing a crucial role in all aspects of our work. Partnerships and collaboration across sectors will be vital for everyone to thrive in this age of digital transformations. The Lab is funded through a grant from Fondation Botnar and headquartered at the University of Geneva's Faculty of Medicine (Switzerland).

From Governing Health Futures 2030 to Digital Transformation for Health Lab

The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing Health Futures 2030 identified four actions aiming to address health inequalities, protect individual rights, and prioritize public good in the context of digital health:
  • recognizing digital technologies as determinants of health,
  • building trust in the digital health ecosystem,
  • promoting data solidarity,
  • investing in digitally transformed health systems.
Aferdita Bytyqi, Executive Director of the DTH-Lab, said: "While the world races forward into the digital age, our youth—the very architects of our future—often find themselves on the periphery of healthcare innovation, healthcare systems and access. Their unique needs and experiences have been insufficiently addressed in the design and governance of digital solutions. The mission of the DTH-Lab is to transform health care by embracing Health for All principles and placing young people at the epicentre of digital-first health systems." The DTH-Lab's approach will embrace experimentation, innovation and adaptation driven by close collaboration with policymakers, technology companies and stakeholders from various sectors and with youth at the design and implementation stages. The structural foundation of the DTH-Lab consists of a consortium composed of regional hubs in Africa, Asia, and Europe, serving as the core of their operations. A Steering Committee, which includes distinguished experts and youth representation, offers strategic and governance advice to the organization. According to Prof. Ilona Kickbusch, Director of the DTH-Lab, "the Lab will explore how digital/AI transformations can improve health and well-being and strengthen citizenship and empowerment. It looks beyond digital tools and AI applications in health care by defining policies and approaches based on public value, solidarity, co-production, digital determinants, and radical digital-first approaches."

What will the DTH-Lab do now?

The Digital Transformations for Health Lab (DTH-Lab) will implement the Commission's recommendations focusing on:
  • Promoting digital-first health systems co-designed and governed by young people, responsive to their health needs, and strengthening digital health citizenship.
  • Providing governments, technology companies and other stakeholders with guidance on how to build a trusted and inclusive governance architecture based on data solidarity and Health for All values.
  • Generating evidence and engaging governments, technology companies, youth organizations and other key actors to address the digital determinants of health.
  • Advancing digitally-driven health systems collaboratively designed and overseen by young people, addressing their health requirements, and reinforcing digital health citizenship.
  • Producing evidence and engaging with governments, technology firms, youth organizations and other influential parties to tackle the digital factors affecting health.
During the kick-off event organized within the World Health Summit, the DTH-Lab called stakeholders from all sectors to support its work and get involved: "We invite all who share our hope for more equitable and sustainable health futures to work with us to make this a reality."

Background of the DTH-Lab

In October 2019, a joint Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing up in a Digital World was established to explore the relationship between digital transformations and health. In 2021, the Commission launched a report with recommendations on how to ensure a healthier future of young generations in the era of digitalization. The DTH-Lab will continue the Commission's portfolio of research and analysis whilst at the same time establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships to co-design and test governance solutions, particularly in low and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia with large youth populations. It will bring youth together with policymakers, technology companies and other actors to design trusted digital-first health systems that deliver equitable benefits for the health, well-being and safety of young people and their communities. DTH-Lab aims to promote youth leadership and support a generation of informed and enfranchised digital health citizens.