The December issue of The Lancet Regional Health-Western Pacific featured an editorial on health innovation and universal health coverage (UHC), endorsing Duke Kunshan University’s efforts in leading the discussion of this vital topic during the Global Health Symposium held in October.
According to the Tracking Universal Health Coverage: 2023 Global Monitoring Report released by WHO and the World Bank on Sept 23, 2023, the world is not on the path towards achieving UHC by 2030. Countries in the Western Pacific region are at different stages of UHC in terms of service coverage and financial management, but they face similar challenges, such as population ageing and a surge of non-communicable diseases.
The editorial suggests health innovation can drive the achievement of UHC in multiple ways and cites the research and insights of several guest speakers at the Duke Kunshan Global Health Symposium.
Firstly, robust health information systems can provide timely and accurate data to support policy development, resource allocation, and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. The editorial mentions the maps of the spatial accessibility of primary healthcare centers in China created by Professor Peng Jia from Wuhan University as an example. However, there is still a need for increased investment in information infrastructure to improve data quality and availability. Dr. Kidong Park from the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific office proposes a digital health strategy for the region to address these challenges.
Secondly, the quality and availability of health workers are essential for the well-functioning of health system. The editorial cites Professor Tien Yin Wong from Tsinghua University, who envisions the potential application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in medical education and clinical practice. However, the cautious application of digital technology is necessary, as highlighted by Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead from the University of Liverpool, who warns about the potential emergence of health inequalities through the application of technology.
The editorial emphasizes that the Western Pacific region can leverage the power of digital innovation and other forms of innovation to achieve the goal of equitable access to quality health services without financial hardship.