For future digital health governance, consider the youth

Youth voices are critical for guiding the future of health governance, as they stand to gain or lose the most from digital transformations, The Lancet argued Oct. 24. 

By 2030, almost 40 percent of the world's population will be younger than 25, meaning they will live through times of political, social and environmental transformation. Children and young people are among the most exposed to digital technologies and are increasingly "datafied," meaning they are continuously monitored through apps, wearable devices and health records, having their data constantly collected. Eighty-eight percent of over 23,000 young people surveyed by UNICEF said that they use some form of digital technology for health-related purposes, exemplifying the vast use of such platforms among the youth.  

Subsequently, The Lancet and the Financial Times partnered to create a commission on health governance, paying special attention to young people's needs and wishes by creating a youth team. To center young people's voices, the commission collaborated with 35 participants representing 25 youth organizations worldwide and asked them what they wanted to see for the future of health governance. 

The participants reported wanting a human rights-based approach to digital health that aligns with basic rights to health and factors in accessibility, availability and quality. They also called for a bridging of the digital divide through education and skills development to ensure people do not get left behind. The youth also centered "consent culture" — allowing people to opt in to sharing their data — as part of digital education, paying close attention to privacy concerns and vulnerability as a result of underdeveloped digital legislation. Lastly, they prioritized the need to participate in developing policy and programming to improve digital literacy, rights and accessibility.  

The Lancet argued that the perspectives of young people must be foundational to the creation and implementation of new digital health governance.

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