Key considerations in digital population health interventions

April 27, 2023

Population Medicine

Digital health technologies (DHTs) have become an integral part of global public health initiatives from encouraging and monitoring vaccine uptake to supporting self-management of long-term conditions. As these technologies have matured, significant challenges have become apparent that threaten to undermine global efforts to ensure public health interventions that use DHTs are equitable and effective. Top-down large-scale deployments of DHTs designed by and for high-income contexts risk wasting efforts and resources if rejected by the local communities who are expected to use them. Regulations, standards, and guidelines developed to support evidence-based healthcare have not yet been updated to include DHTs resulting in a largely unregulated market - a problem particularly acute in low-income settings. Our international team has diverse global experience at designing, evaluating and implementing DHTs for public health and population health benefits. It is not often that we get the opportunity to come together and discuss using these tools from a public health perspective. The purpose of this workshop is to describe and discuss current trends and future considerations for designing equitable and effective digital technologies for population health. Each presenter will provide a case study of how they have used DHTs for public health programmes in Aotearoa NZ, Pacific Islands, UK, USA, Kenya, Vietnam, Israel, and India. They will outline the current evidence base in their areas of expertise and share learnings from implementing programmes in a diverse range of contexts. The workshop will focus on how DHTs can be designed to improve health equity, particularly for indigenous populations such as New Zealand Māori, and how different contexts and countries should influence how technologies should be designed and implemented. We will address the challenge of international DHT providers entering low-income settings with monolithic applications and how governments and international regulators are moving to meet the challenge of ensuring DHTs such as wearable sensors and AI-based diagnostics are evidence-based, effective and safe. Our overall theme is that although DHTs may provide value through enhanced capacity and the ability to meet increasing consumer demand for real-time, accessible, convenient, and choice-driven health care, there remain challenges with the implementation of DHTs with respect to equity, scalability and sustainability. We also question whether transparency, local ownership, equity and safety are likely to be upheld with models of social and health entrepreneurship. We will then have a live Q&A time with our panel. There will be time for open group discussion, and we would also hope to gain further insights from participants in the workshop.

You can read the paper in Population Medicine.