WHO releases first guideline on digital health interventions (13)

24 April, 2019

Neil, I can see why you highlighted this particular recommendation [Recommendation 10: Digital provision of training and educational content to health workers via mobile devices/mobile learning (mLearning)], given our recent discussions -- it suggests that there's only mobile or traditional education, and doesn't acknowledge the vast world of other digital educational modalities. And since they acknowledge telemedicine having other e-learning media, it doesn't seem that this is a random word choice. Under "Devices" (pg xix) they explain that: " Given the current and growing importance of mobile devices for delivering digital health interventions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, it was decided that this guideline would focus on digital health interventions that were accessible via mobile devices." That's fine, but it doesn't explain their frequently specifically excluding other efficient and near-ubiquitous media for looking at a screen.

I'd suggest that here, and many/most other places in the document, "digital" is substituted for "mobile", so that (for example) recommendation #10 would read:

'WHO recommends the provision of learning and training content via digital devices /e-Learning to complement, rather than replace, traditional methods of delivering continued health education and post-certification training'

And to make a further push here, it's also worth a look at this conclusion more deeply, given the abundant literature* showing equivalent educational outcomes of academically-based online vs traditional training, often with superior student satisfaction, as well as other measures of effectiveness, acceptability, feasibility, resource use, and human rights (their criteria). This really doesn't square for me with WHO calling (since <=2008's Kampala Declaration) for the pressing need for accessible computer-based health sciences education to train millions, nor with Sustainable Development Goal #4: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". Perpetuating myths implying substandard quality of web-based education will erode the efficiency with which we can use demonstratedly-powerful digital media to address SDG goal 4.

*http://www.nextgenu.org/course/view.php?id=206#2 or do a search for abundant broader examples


Erica Frank, MD, MPH

Professor + Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia

Founder + President, www.NextGenU.org

Principal Investigator, Healthy Doc = Healthy Patient

Research Director, Annenberg Physician Training Program

HIFA profile: Erica Frank is the Founder and President of NextGenU.org, the world's first portal to free, accredited higher education, now being used in 193 (of 195) countries, and offering the world's first free degree (a Master's degree in Public Health), as well as a MedSchoolInABox that includes Graduate Medical Education. Erica is Professor and Canada Research Chair of Preventive Medicine and Population Health at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and is a physician specializing in preventive medicine. Her research established the strong and consistent influence of clinicians' health habits on their patients. She was Co-Editor in Chief of the journal Preventive Medicine (1994-1999), and the 2008 President of the Nobel Peace Prize winning (1985 and 2017) Physicians for Social Responsibility. erica.frank AT ubc.ca