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eHealth and health information systems are essential for rapid detection and containment of infectious diseases, conducting routine public health surveillance, responding to health emergencies, and healthcare delivery to population at all levels. To achieve the full potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and medical devices in support of health systems, adoption of health data standards and health information technology standards are essential. Systematic adoption of health data standards through an eHealth Architecture coupled with eHealth Strategy to address policy and governance  would allow countries to rapidly generate aggregate health data from various sources for timely public health action and response.

In response to a growing demand for technical assistance by the Member States, the World Health Organization Headquarters held a WHO Forum on Health Data Standardization and Interoperability during 3-4 December 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. The primary objective of the Forum was to facilitate a dialogue among health data standards development organizations, standards maintenance organizations, academic institutions, subject matter experts, and member states toward a comprehensive roadmap for full implementation of health data standards for interoperability within countries.


Nearly 200 individuals from 54 countries participated in the dialogue to address 15 key questions related to the seven thematic areas of standardization and interoperability. Numerous other participants had also watched the event on live webcasting.

Among the topics discussed during the Forum include: a discussion on essential health data standards for health systems performance; how to make health data standards accessible to Members States; human capacity required for health data standards implementation and maintenance; in-country policy and governance mechanisms for health data standards adoption; and the role of development partners in health data standards implementation.

Participants included representatives from health data standards development organizations (SDOs), WHO Member States, UN Agencies, academic and research institutions, implementing partners, donor community, and subject matter experts in addition to WHO technical programmes at Headquarters and WHO Regional Offices.

A full report on the key discussions and outcome of the Forum, additional documents, pictures and videos will be made available by 10 January 2013 at




eHealth Program
Department of Knowledge Management, Bioethics and Research
Pan American Health Organization
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