smartphone technology health kenya TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

The Global Promise of Digital Health

New digital technologies are expanding the capabilities of health-care providers in ways that scarcely could have been imagined just a few years ago. By harnessing these new methods to the fullest, the world can put itself well within reach of achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for public health.

BASEL – In his recent best-selling book Factfulness, the late international health expert Hans Rosling shows that horrors such as natural disasters, oil spills, and battlefield deaths are trending steeply downward, and that harvest yields, literacy rates, and other development indicators are on the rise. Taking a fact- and evidence-based approach, Rosling makes the case for optimism in what seems like an increasingly chaotic world.

There is also cause for optimism in the realm of global health, and for a simple reason. Just as the Industrial Revolution produced far-reaching advances in medicine, the ongoing digital revolution will allow us to improve health care in ways that were hard to imagine just a few years ago.

Almost every country in the world has committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an international agenda for improving the wellbeing of humanity and the planet that sustains it. In terms of global health, the SDGs aim to eliminate preventable child deaths and major epidemics, and to achieve universal health coverage.