Executive Education
29 November 2021

Governing Digital Transformations to Protect the Health of Future Generations

On behalf of the Secretariat of the Lancet and Financial Times Commission "Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing Up in a digital world (GHFutures2030)", Brian Li Han Wong, graduate of the Institute's Executive Education programme and GHFutures2030 Youth Officer, looks at the key recommendations from the GHFutures2030 report, which "examines the broader societal and governance questions that emerge at the interface of digital and health transformations with a particular focus on children and young people who stand to inherit governance models being designed today"

Our growing dependence on digital technologies has been confirmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen how—when used for greater public good—digital technologies and data can help us respond to health challenges. However, the pandemic has made society increasingly aware of just how digital transformations—or exclusion from them—can be detrimental to our health and our rights. 

Digital and data-driven tools are fundamentally changing approaches to health and the design of health systems; however, governance models have not followed the rapid pace of innovation. Being the most active users of digital technology and digital media, children and youth stand to gain—or lose—the most from the digital transformations in all domains, including health. 

New governance approaches needed

The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing health futures 2030: Growing up in a digital world (GHFutures2030) was established to propose governance approaches that will drive more equitable health futures and transform universal health coverage (UHC) in an age of increasing digital transformations. 

With its Secretariat hosted at the Graduate Institute's Global Health Centre, the Commission is composed of two co-chairs and 17 commissioners representing a wide range of sectors, expertise and backgrounds. 

Following two years of deliberations, the Commission’s report was launched in October at the World Health Summit in Berlin. The report explores digital transformations of health and the health futures of children and young people growing up in a digital world. Moreover, it examines policies with the greatest potential to improve health and wellbeing of all ages—children and young people in particular—to promote health equity, human rights, and data solidarity in a digital world.

The Commission argues that digital transformations should be considered as a key determinant of health and presses for a paradigm shift in how digital technologies are designed, implemented, and governed.

Recommendations for sustainable health futures

The Commission asserts that governance of digital technologies must employ a value-based framework that places public purpose ahead of private profit. To positively shape health futures in a digital world, governance approaches should be grounded in "Health for All" values of democracy, equity, solidarity, inclusion and human rights. 

The Commission urges policymakers to address the power asymmetries reinforced by digital transformations and ensure that opportunities afforded by digital technologies and data are harnessed in support of the missions of public health and universal health coverage (UHC). To achieve this, the Commission has identified four areas where governments and digital health actors must take action:

  • Address the role of digital technologies as determinants of health 
  • Build people’s trust in digital health
  • Enact a solidarity approach to health data to increase its public value
  • Invest in the enablers of digital transformations of health and UHC

Without a precautionary, mission-oriented, and value-based approach to governance, digital transformations will fail to bring about improvements in health for all and will leave people behind in the process. 

To learn more about the Commission and its report visit