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WHO designates the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences as a collaborating centre for eHealth

  Photo: / Unsplash (CC)

Photo: / Unsplash (CC)

Anna Torres Garrote
Both institutions will work together to promote the use of information and communication technologies in health as part of the effort to combat social inequalities

Since this April, the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences is a new World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centre in the field of eHealth. With this appointment, our University joins the more than 700 institutions around the world who provide support for this organization's programmes. The Faculty of Health Sciences' task will be to promote the use of eHealth in the Americas to combat social inequality in this area. It will also research the implementation and use of mHealth in Latin American and Caribbean countries and develop training courses in telemedicine. All this will be carried out under the coordination of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which acts as the WHO's Regional Office for the Americas.

The UOC and PAHO/WHO pursue a common goal: foster eHealth around the world. To achieve this goal, the two institutions signed a covenant in 2015 to develop eHealth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The covenant established the functions and responsibilities governing cooperation between the two institutions in planning, designing and developing education, research and knowledge dissemination activities in the field of eHealth in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the provision of support and strategic guidance to the various networks created by each institution.

"We have been working with PAHO/WHO for some time, both in studying how eHealth is used to support universal health coverage and in implementing telemedicine services", explains Francesc Saigí, director of this WHO collaborating centre. This collaboration has led to the performance of two studies: “eHealth in the Region of the Americas: breaking down the barriers to implementation”  and “Framework for the Implementation of a Telemedicine Service”.

This same year, PAHO/WHO joined the CYTED-RITMOS Network (Ibero-American Network for Mobile Technologies in Health), an international network that supports mHealth research and development in Latin America. Led by the UOC, its members are 17 research groups from 6 countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Spain) and it is supported by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Telefónica, the Mobile World Capital Barcelona Foundation (FMWCB) and the University of Michigan (UM) in the United States.

Committed to fostering eHealth from the academic world

The objective pursued by the UOC is to pool forces with reference institutions to "develop eHealth throughout the world, put the patient at the centre of care and advance toward more sustainable health, reducing costs and opening frontiers", Saigí explains. As part of this endeavour, the UOC created the eHealth Center a year ago as an academic centre to train and empower practitioners and the public to lead the paradigm shift in health through technology. As a people-centred institution, it uses research, education and consulting to contribute to social progress and well-being.

According to Pilar García Lorda, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, being a WHO collaborating centre represents "the consolidation of many years of pioneering collaborative work between the two institutions in the field of eHealth, in both research and teaching. And it represents, above all, an opportunity to continue contributing value and advancing towards better, universal, sustainable health, by generating scientific evidence, disseminating and assessing best practices, and training health professionals through our online health programmes".

For her part, Marta Aymerich, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research and president of the eHealth Center, met last Wednesday with the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva. As a result of this meeting, both institutions agreed that the new relationship would mark a "watershed not only in pushing forward knowledge in eHealth (by allowing increased cooperation and knowledge exchange) but also in expanding the scope of implementation of this knowledge in many health systems' clinical and public health practices", Aymerich explains. The UOC's vice president adds that "the fusion of PAHO/WHO's global lobbying power with the UOC's capacity for research and innovation in eHealth (which implies ubiquity) may enable extraordinary contributions to be made to health".

Pastora Martínez, Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation, explains that this milestone aligns with the UOC's strategy to work within the framework of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Specifically, it is related with SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 3, Good health and well-being, which seeks to ensure a healthy life and promote well-being for everyone. "Online health is one of the best tools for attaining health universality, and cooperating with an international organization like PAHO/WHO is the best way to influence the development of public policies that pursue this goal", she concludes.

More than 700 institutions in more than 80 countries support WHO's programmes

WHO's collaborating centres are institutions, such as research centres, faculties or university institutes, designated by WHO's director-general to carry out supporting activities for the organization's programmes. At present, more than 700 centres in more than 80 Member States work with WHO in areas such as nursing, occupational health, communicable diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases or health technology. Of these, only ten are located in Spain.

In Spain, the following institutions are also WHO collaborating centres: the Universitat de València, the University of Alacant, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the Spanish National Transplant Organization (ONT), the Andalusian School of Public Health, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and the Carlos III Health Institute.

About PAHO and WHO

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the international organization specialized in public health in the Americas. It works every day with the region's countries to improve and protect its population's health. It engages in technical cooperation in health with its member countries, fights communicable and non-communicable diseases and their causes, strengthens health systems and responds to emergencies and disasters. PAHO fulfils two institutional roles: it is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American Human Rights System and also serves as WHO's Regional Office for the Americas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency responsible for directing and coordinating international health. Through offices in more than 150 countries, it works with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people. Among its areas of activity, it combats both infectious diseases such as flu and HIV infection, and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease; it helps mothers and children survive and thrive so that they can look forward to a healthy old age; it ensures the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink, and provides the medicines and vaccines they need.


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