Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the 14th World Congress on Public Health on the 11 February 2015, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma announced the new online health initiative ‘CommonHealth’.
He said: “CommonHealth will be a secure cloud-based platform, designed to provide an authoritative source of health information, communication, networking, learning best practices in varying environments, and collaboration for healthcare professionals across the Commonwealth.
“It will connect Commonwealth communities of doctors, nurses, allied healthcare practitioners and policy makers and allow members to access online communities, search for information, and where appropriate create expert groups to collaborate and develop projects.”
A multi-sectoral approach to health, through good nutrition, physical activity, and a safer environment, rather than simply by the treatment of disease has become increasingly important over recent years due to the growing dominance of non-communicable diseases.
Mr Sharma said: “The majority of Commonwealth member states are low and middle income countries, and deaths in these countries due to non-communicable diseases are now overtaking those due to communicable diseases, which used to be their primary public health challenge.
“Non-communicable diseases place an increasingly heavy burden on already overstretched healthcare budgets.”
To this end the Commonwealth is assisting with the development of national frameworks to counter the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, and to roll out universal health coverage in order to achieve better health outcomes.
Working in collaboration with Public Health England and through twinning arrangements, the Commonwealth is also providing technical support to strengthen the capacity of public health laboratories in member states.
With continued developments being made in the digital world and the sustained advent of the internet, the Commonwealth sees great potential in the online health initiative, which will bring benefit to Commonwealth citizens through greater exchange of knowledge and expertise, currently held within silos around the world.
CommonHealth will create a sharing and participative online environment within which healthcare professionals are able to learn and teach one another so that patients in all Commonwealth states will benefit.
It will provide a platform where health care professionals and policy makers can access up-to-date, health-related materials and comparative data that has been peer-reviewed by CommonHealth experts. This will remove many of the concerns regarding the quality and accuracy of much of the healthcare information currently found online.
The online platform will enable rapid access and transfer of knowledge, allowing members to identify where there may be opportunities for working with other countries and communities that have similar health challenges, or where significant achievements have been recognised.
Mr Sharma said: “As the term for the Millennium Development Goals draws to a close, and we move into the new global development framework, the Commonwealth, together with the wider global community, is adopting a more integrated approach, focussed on the social determinants of health.
He added: “Knowledge-transfer is a vital part of our vision for ‘CommonHealth’ – as it always has been for the Commonwealth in terms of adding global value. We recognise that this is an ambitious project, and are confident that through the outstanding reputation and convening power of the Commonwealth we have a unique opportunity to carry this project forward.
“Indeed, the principles of global equity, social progress, and economic development, that motivate the work of the Commonwealth, demand that we pursue this new initiative for the wide benefits it can bring to citizens in all our member states.”