European Commission and WHO Undertake a Historic Digital Health Effort

The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission announced a historical intiative in digital health on June 5.

WHO will adopt the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification in June 2023 to create a global system that will facilitate cross-border mobility and safeguard people worldwide from present and potential health dangers, including pandemics.

"Building on the EU's highly successful digital certification network, WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access to an open-source digital health tool, which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency, and data protection and privacy," says WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively."

The initiative represents the agreement reached in November 2022 between Tedros and Commissioner Stella Kyriakides to expand strategic cooperation on global health issues. It is based on the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health and the EU Global Health Strategy, and the new collaboration reinforces a robust multilateral structure led by a powerful EU and centers on the WHO.

"This partnership is an important step for the digital action plan of the EU Global Health Strategy. By using European best practices we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally—to the benefit of those most in need. It is also a powerful example of how alignment between the EU and the WHO can deliver better health for all, in the EU and across the world," continues Kyriakdes.

She says there is no better partner than the WHO to progress the work we started at the EU and further create global digital health solutions than the organization serving as the leading and coordinating authority on international health activities.

"With 80 countries and territories connected to the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, the EU has set a global standard," says Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.

He adds that the EU certificate has been helpful in the battle against the pandemic and made it easier to travel and visit other countries. The development, administration, and implementation of the WHO GDHCN system will be closely coordinated through this partnership, taking advantage of the European Commission's extensive technological know-how in the area.

Digital COVID-19 certifications have been critical in the European Union's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU quickly created interoperable COVID-19 certificates to promote freedom of movement within its borders. It became the most generally used solution worldwide since it was based on open-source technology and standards and enabled connections with non-EU nations that issue certificates by EU DCC regulations.

The initial component of the worldwide WHO system will be online in June 2023 and will continue to be built upon over the next few years. Through a tiered approach, this cooperation will seek to improve the WHO system technology to support additional use cases, such as the digitization of the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP).

The agency concludes that the shared values and guiding principles of equity, inclusion, responsibility, data protection and privacy, security, and global scalability will serve as the foundation for this collaboration.

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