What is eHealth?
According to Gunther Eysenbach, Editor of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, eHealth is a broad concept that strives for the improvement and implementation of the 10 Es, namely:
In addition to these 10 essential Es, Eysenbach added that eHealth should also be:
easy to use,
The Purpose of eHealth
eHealth can help support a range of activities in health care. These activities include: conducting research, educating the health workforce, managing health data, tracking diseases, and monitoring public health. The monitoring of public health includes the collection, storage and management of health records. This type of system enables the easy sharing of medical information and the creation of quick digital surveys, thereby improving the public health sector by making vital health data easily accessible.
At the global community level, the quality of care can also be enhanced by eHealth; thus, the concept can ultimately make the health sector more efficient.
Since the aim of eHealth is to improve people’s health, we also need to consider what goes beyond the boundaries of health care.
Health care is a complex field that encompasses primary care; hospitals; vaccinations; check-ups; emergency services; long term monitoring; and palliative home care, to mention a few examples. Many patients need additional services to complement their health care.
What is the relationship between urban populations and non-communicable disease?
Half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this proportion is estimated to rise up to around two-thirds by 2050. This brings many environmental and health challenges with it; air and noise pollution are increasing and cities are particularly vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. The safe removal and management of solid waste represent further challenges.
In addition, cities are typically characterised by extreme inequalities in wealth, socio-economic status, housing quality and access to public goods such as sanitation and education. The Member States of the United Nations have therefore decided to address urban areas in one the Sustainable Development Goals (No. 11) and to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
Meanwhile, during the past two decades, the global disease burden shifted from infectious to non-communicable diseases (which include cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer). While several NCD risk factors are associated with individual lifestyle behaviours - such as smoking, low fruit and vegetable consumption, physical inactivity and heavy alcohol consumption - the WHO also views the broader social determinants of health as responsible for health inequities:
“The social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.”
Although NCDs are a major public health problem in all countries, the vast majority of NCD-related deaths are in low- to middle-income countries. Urban citizens belonging to lower socioeconomic groups are at much greater risk of dying of NCDs.
Regardless of its potential to improve health, e-Health interventions often seem to widen already existing health gaps between populations that frequently use information and communications technologies (ICT) and those who do not, instead of closing them. For example, "a wearable fitness band isn’t much use if you’re homeless and healthy eating apps aren’t all that practical if you struggle to buy groceries". This is why we feel there is a need to look beyond market-focused approaches to eHealth and consider how it can be harnessed for the sake of public policies in the fields of health promotion and urban planning.
*All participants of this year’s challenge will receive an extensive content guide including detailed information on eHealth and Social Entrepreneurship.