17 May 2008
By Rashmee Roshan Lall
The 53–nation Commonwealth will launch the world’s first international ehealth initiative on Sunday in an attempt to allow its members faster, more efficient and universal access to health care.
Ernest Massiah, head of health at the London–headquartered Commonwealth Secretariat, which organises an annual health minister’s meeting in Geneva, told TOI that the e–health focus could be a revolution in the making, potentially offering fast–track development opportunities to poor people spread across the Commonwealth.
E–HealthIndia, he said, could provide crucial hands–on knowledge because “Health workers in some parts (of India) are even now, sending text messages to the central authorities with key epidemiological data”.
The Commonwealth’s new ‘Big idea’ is about how to translate “The amazing diffusion of new technology, such as the mobile phone” into the field of health, where most member countries significantly lag behind the developed world.
E–health is becoming increasingly relevant to both developing and developed countries across the Commonwealth, in terms of accessing health care, communicating professional expertise and managing health databases.
In a bullish statement of intent, the association, says the ehealth initiative “Addresses the reality that the whole world is becoming digitalised–not just the wealthy, developed world. And we had better all help each other to get on board”.
Sunday’s conference, Massiah says, will seek new southsouth cooperation in the health sector–in other words, a Commonwealth country short of a technologically–competent health professional will henceforth tap capability of more developed member–nations, such as that of India, rather than look to the US or Europe.