The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1946. It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. The active participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is a critical element in the work of CSW. NGOs have been influential in shaping the current global policy framework on women’s empowerment and gender equality: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
On November 3-5, at the United Nations in Geneva, I was invited to speak in the Geneva NGO Forum –Beijing +20 Un ECE Regional Review which focused on gender equality in all spheres of life. The five areas of priority in the NGO CSW agenda include:
o Women’s Rights Peace and Justice
o Women’s Economic Empowerment and Employment
o Displacement and Migration
o Women’s Health and Education
o Violence against Women & Girls
I participated in the Women and Health interactive roundtable, representing The Global Alliance for Women’s Health (GAWH) a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and committed to advancing women’s health in all stages of life and at all policy levels, through health promotion, education, advocacy, and program implementation.
My presentation, entitled: Expediting Advances in Women’s Health through Internet and mHealth, focused on the three core elements of digital healthcare:
1. Full information at the point of care: the right information on the patient, in the right place, at the right time.
2. Communication, collaboration and continuity of care
3. Data access, chronic care management and population health.
I described the digital tools that support each of these core elements including:
Digital health records and health information exchange to achieve full information at the point of care;
Patient portals that enable email and e-visits for continuous communication,
Short Message Systems (SMS) that send text message notifications and reminders to smartphones and tablets;
Smartphones apps that foster collaboration between patients and providers;
Chronic care management tools such as telemonitoring systems, wearable devices, smart medication dispensers; and many of the apps that monitor body vitals and interconnect with providers for analysis and treatment decisions.
Telemedicine including video-conferencing that enables quality care to be delivered to patients who reside in remote locations where there is a shortage of health care workers.
I talked about the need for patients to have access to data and information and how that is accomplished via the Internet, where patients can search for health information and connect with social networks so that they can better understand their health issues and make better health choices for themselves and their family.
I also pointed out that no matter how isolated certain patient groups are, 98% of the world’s population have a basic cellular phone, enabling them, at the very least, to receive text messages (SMS) that provide reminders about immunizations, taking medication, and keeping appointments with health providers, nutrition advice, and more.
I concluded my presentation by pointing out how digital communication technology, the Internet and mHealth foster empowered patients – women who take charge of their health issues and manage health care for themselves and their families; engaged patients, women who actively participate in the health care experience by using digital tools to collaborate with their providers to make good health care choices and treatment decisions; educated patients who use digital tools to advance their knowledge about what is feasible and available to them.
As a result of my presentation, digital technology in health has been included, for the first time, as one of the recommendations in the outcome report from the Geneva NGO Forum, which will be part of the CSW report submitted to the UN Economic Commission for Europe for the annual CSW meeting in New York in March, 2015. At this meeting representatives of Member States will gather at United Nations Headquarters to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.