Digital child health: opportunities and obstacles

2 January, 2024

Dear HIFA / CHIFA members, [*see note below]

Wish you all a happy, healthy, active, fruitful and enjoyable 2024.

Together let us build a global digital world, which leaves no child behind.

Digital child health: opportunities and obstacles

A joint statement of European Academy of Paediatrics and European Confederation of Primary Care Paediatricians>

Using interoperable electronic child health data holds great promise in advancing international child healthcare systems and enhancing the child's care and well-being. By promoting standardised data exchange, interoperability enables timely health assessments, accurate vaccination schedules, continuous monitoring of developmental milestones, coordination of care, and collaboration among child healthcare professionals and the individual or their caregiver. Embracing interoperability is essential for creating a person-centric and data-driven healthcare ecosystem where the potential of digitalisation and innovation can be fully realized. 

In 2022, the European Commission launched the European Health Data Space (EHDS) as one of the central building blocks of a strong European Health Union. The EHDS will help the EU achieve a step forward in providing healthcare to people across Europe. People can control and utilise their health data in their home country or other Member States. The EHDS offers a consistent, trustworthy, and efficient framework to use health data for research, innovation, policymaking, and regulatory activities while ensuring full compliance with the EU's high data protection standards.

Concurrently, the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe released a Pocket Book of Primary Healthcare for Children and Adolescents, which offers guidelines for health promotion, disease prevention, and management from infancy to adolescence. This resource is intended for utilisation by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners responsible for providing care to children and adolescents within the primary healthcare setting. The book's primary objective is to enhance the diagnosis and management of prevalent conditions in children and adolescents amenable to outpatient treatment. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in improving the utilization of laboratory and other diagnostic measures and promoting the rational use of essential drugs and equipment. This is achieved by consolidating information derived from established WHO guidelines and other evidence-based sources.

The EHDS directive of the EU and WHO Europe's Pocket Book of Primary Healthcare for Children and Adolescents, if used in synergy, could contribute to significant progress towards improving the quality of care for every child in Europe. Additionally, they could concurrently stimulate and facilitate effective communication with children and their families, ensuring meaningful participation and responsiveness to their unique needs and preferences.

The urgent need of cross-border exchange of electronic health data is demonstrated now more than ever. Amidst the distressing scenes of children fleeing war zones and conflict-ridden areas, we witness the destruction of hospitals and health facilities caused by military actions. Additionally, the escalating incidence of floods, fires, and hurricanes due to climate change poses a significant risk to institutional health data, potentially leading to its loss or damage.

HIFA profile: Elizabeth Siderius is a paediatrician at Youth Health Almere, Netherlands. Professional interests: Child disabilities. Email address: e.siderius@

[*Note from HIFA moderator (NPW): CHIFA is our sister forum on global child health. Join here: ]