A Spotlight on Transform Health


Expanding the use of digital self-care to reach UHC

For this month’s spotlight, the Self-Care Trailblazer Group is focusing on Transform Health, a global coalition of organisations and individuals committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through the expanded use of digital technologies and data. Learn more from Asmita Ghosh, Communications & Engagement Manager and Richard Dzikunu, Young Experts Facilitator for Transform Health, and find them on Twitter at @Trans4m_Health.

Tell us a bit about your organization

Transform Health was formed in 2018 by a group of organizations who saw the need for a concerted, long-term effort to harness the transformative benefits of digital technology and data to achieve the SDG target of Universal Health Coverage (UHC by 2030).

We campaign and collaborate with the individuals, communities, governments, organizations and institutions that are most affected by the lack of access to equitable, affordable and high-quality healthcare. We are committed to promoting the perspectives and leadership of youth, women and marginalised groups in all aspects of our work.

Why do you consider self-care to be a vital part of healthcare systems?

The idea that the individual is somehow detached from the health system has dominated healthcare thinking since the inception of modern healthcare. Yet this approach to health has focused too much on illness and on the ability of the experts to intervene and address this at the individual, group and populations level. Recently, public health approaches that focus on wellbeing have been gaining ground. 

Digital technology and the unprecedented access to information and expertise allows individuals to take far more control over their own health outcomes, and self care is increasingly recognised as a cornerstone of healthcare. The health system is increasingly engaging with this aspect of health and policy makers are slowly, though sometimes too hesitantly, establishing the incentive structures to encourage more of us to remain healthy, for example through high taxation on unhealthy activities such as smoking, and in some contexts on sugar.  

Self-care in health systems prioritises the ownership and autonomy of health decisions by the individual, such that they have the agency to influence their own health outcomes. This is especially important to promote in areas of health that see a lot of stigma, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights. Access to technology and information is for example empowering many young women to make more informed decisions about their own bodies and providing information on where and how to access services. Digital technology enables people to access information and services while respecting the privacy, and autonomy of the individual .

Strengthening self-care within health systems, through the use of digital tools and technologies, can have a monumental impact on improving the reach and efficacy of health interventions, as well as lead to improved health outcomes, especially for the most marginalised, who face several barriers to accessing healthcare in traditional health systems. However, the digital divide must be breached to ensure that the most marginalised have access to the internet and the range of digital health tools it offers, as well as the literacy and skills required to safely and effectively use digital tools in support of their health.

How does Transform Health believe digital health services and digital self-care can create new opportunity for individuals in their healthcare journey? 

At Transform Health, we believe that digital tools and technologies can support individuals to access health information, manage their own health, as well as enhance the quality and coverage of health services. With increased access to mobile phones, greater internet penetration, advancements in artificial intelligence, and the increased coverage of telemedicine, the breadth of self-care services have dramatically increased through the use of digital tools.

Digital tools facilitate the self-management and self-testing of health issues, which are especially important in the case of stigmatised services such as mental health, sexual health, hormone therapy. Digital platforms can be an easier or more efficient route to access healthcare services, or serve as the healthcare intervention itself. Digital technologies also allow individuals to connect with peers facing similar health issues and create their own communities of support.

Self-care and digital transformation of health systems go hand in hand.