Online Education as a Cornerstone of Digital Health

Digital Health Week, which takes place between the 29th November and 3rd December, is a global week of action to advocate for digital health and its critical role in providing health for all by 2030. 

Access to healthcare varies greatly from country to country. Globally, more than half of the world’s population struggled to access essential health services before the COVID-19 pandemic and things have only become more difficult since.

Countries with fragile health systems and economic inequalities have been hardest hit by the pandemic. These tend to be the countries which have higher rates of vaccine skepticism and lowest rates of vaccine uptake. 

Ukraine has the highest rate of vaccine skepticism and lowest rate of vaccine uptake in Europe. Currently only 26% of the Ukrainian population have been fully vaccinated which is a stark contrast to the average across Europe which is 66.2%. This is underpinned by the fact that 60% of Ukrainians wouldn’t get vaccinated even if the vaccine was provided free of charge.

The reason why so many Ukrainians are skeptical of the vaccine is because they have been a victim of the weaponisation of health information which took advantage of their fragile health systems and poor health literacy of the population. The reason for this are complex and likely stems from geopolitical issues associated with the ongoing Ukrainian conflicts.

Sadly Ukraine isn’t a unique story with many countries around the world in similar situations. Improving access to health services in places like Ukraine appears like an insurmountable challenge, and although there isn’t going to be a quick fix we need to act now to repair and strengthen the fragile health systems.

A key part of the restoration is improving access to education for both general population and healthcare professionals. This will improve health literacy and help develop a local workforce which can meet the needs of the population. To achieve this two approaches are required, one is online through digital health solutions and the other offline through in-country strategies.

How Online Learning Breaks Down Barriers of Education

Digital health, as defined by the WHO, is “any aspect of adopting digital technologies to improve health, from inception to operation”. It’s a broad definition and encompasses a whole range of technologies – from electronic patient records to mobile apps. Digital health has the potential to prevent disease and improve quality of life through the application of technology. 

Through facilitating online learning, we can support the training and development of healthcare staff remotely. This gives an opportunity to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of education, and therefore health services. Where it may not have been possible before, knowledge can now be disseminated across geographic, economic, cultural and other borders with ease.

Physiopedia and Physioplus as committed to delivering Digital Health products which are suitable for healthcare professions in all countries around the world. Specifically, as part of ReLAB-HS we are working in a number of countries first. Here is what Physiopedia and Physioplus have been up to so far:

Plenty more is coming in 2022 so keep your eyes peeled.

ReLAB-HS is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is implemented under cooperative agreement number 7200AA20CA00033. The consortium is managed by prime recipient, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.