The Sustainable Development Goals & Digital Health – What Does The Future Hold?

THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS & DIGITAL HEALTH – WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Ayinla Daniel


Before writing this article, I decided to re-visit the subject of the Sustainable Development Goals once more, and what I found out from that study inspired a big part of this short article.

The Millennium Development Goals gave way to what we now know as the Sustainable Development Goals, a term that best describes the concept of continuation and sustainability that should encapsulate endeavours like this one.

Hyunwon Jang | Unsplash

What Happened To The Millennium Development Goals?

The millennium development goals were created from a perspective that may have not put into consideration the element of sustainability, which became the idea that engineered the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations decided to start the journey towards achieving the MDG’s in the year 2000, and they thought that within a space of fifteen years, they would be able to reach their goals, an eight-point agenda. But by 2015, fifteen years down the line, they found out that it was not possible and they had to go back to the drawing board and the Sustainable Development Goals were born.

What were the MDG’s?:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  2. Achieve universal primary education;
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women;
  4. Reduce child mortality;
  5. Improve maternal health;
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and
  8. Develop a global partnership for development.

If you take a closer look at the MDG’s, you should notice that these goals are inter-dependent and that each one in one way or the other tends to point us to a healthier world. Healthy children are the only ones who can benefit from education. If the environment is safe, the first indicator is a healthy world.

Now, let’s take a look at the SDGs:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reducing inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

What’s the plan? Before 2030, we should be able to have achieved all these goals. We are ten years and a few months away. Well, one aspect that I foresee that we may be able to make tremendous progress is in health care. And the instrument that is going to make it possible is the instrument of “DIGITAL HEALTH”. And I strongly believe that the wheels of the Sustainable Development Goals are Good Health & Well-being.

Where does digital health come into play in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Good health/well-being is the foundation of The Sustainable Development goals. Societies and communities that are healthy are the only ones that will be able to pursue in their full capacities the aims of the SDG’s, and not sick, unhealthy people.

If we want to achieve the SDGs faster, then it is wise that we first advocate more for healthier communities. More resources should be directed to improving the health care of communities, especially in places where health care coverage is poor.

The invasion of digital health care technologies is the only way that we will be able to achieve global health coverage. Digital health takes health care to where care may not be able to go on human legs, it goes through the internet that we have created. Now, we are seeing an amazing spike in the rate at which digital health services are been utilized. Especially in Africa. There has been an increase in the creation of digital health care start-ups on the continent. Many are beginning to understand the importance of remote health care services – remote and real-time health care monitoring for the aged and other applications.

Technological giants are also looking into the digital health industry, with companies like Google, Amazon and Apple already coming up with medical wearables, that are having amazing functions that can monitor and evaluate a wide range of physiological parameters and even send reports to servers where A.I algorithms can read them and send sensible feedbacks to users.

Amazon’s newest release, an application called Halo, which integrates into a wearable medical device that can create a 3D image of your body and with that evaluate body fat and with its sensors, it can also tell your mood. Now, I think that’s pretty amazing.

In the not too distant future, we will see more of these medical gadgets becoming a vital aspect of the health care industry, as remote health care monitoring begins to gain acceptance among people, and as these devices also widen their use and importance. Not to also put aside the effect of the pandemic, that is no doubt one of the factors that have accelerated the utilization of digital health.  

There is so much that Digital Health can do in terms of achieving the health goals of the sustainable development race. In data storage and management, blockchain technology shows a whole lot of promises. Remote surgeries are soon going to become a normal culture in the world of surgical medicine. Robotic nurses are already been developed in some countries to help battle highly infectious diseases, like the ongoing pandemic. Medical devices are already in the market that can transfer in real-time basic and complex physiological parameters directly to health care professionals, who are always on standby to interpret results and initiate responses.

Artificial Intelligence is already used in the world of medical diagnoses to help health care professionals make more accurate diagnoses. In the field of mental health, programs are been designed that can help those with depression. Experts are beginning to understand in depth the energy present in the Internet of Medical Things [IoT]. It’s not just a fancy word, it tries to let us know what the future of health care is going to be like.

This future is bright and rife with so many opportunities. I repeat, if we want to achieve the sustainable development goals, then we must be ready to put in more efforts; in resource, into the aspect of health care, and one tool that can enable us to measure adequate success in health care is the tool of Digital Health.

What Is Africa Doing?

I must confess, Africa is not resting on her oars. An army of innovative minds has taken to the streets of creativity to show the world what they can do. Young innovators and creators are exploring the possibilities of A.I to solve various community health problems, ranging from monitoring maternal and child health, to battling air pollution, to providing digital blood bank services to creating communities that help educate health care professionals about the importance and usefulness of digital health.

What are you doing? If you are a health care professional who has not understood the concept of digital health yet, then I think you have to get serious with it. Our digital literacy academy Care Code is designed to expose health care professionals to the realities of digital life, with the aid of publications, campaigns, webinars and digital health courses designed for health care professional, with a deliberate bias though for health care professionals in Africa.

If you want to know more about Care Code, check us out here, and find out how we are ready to help you.


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