In November of 2007, the UN General Assembly decided that the 20th of February each year would be designated as the World Day of Social Justice, the aim of which would be to promote concrete actions for social development nationally and internationally. The theme for 2021 is ‘A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’.
IDF Europe wishes to use this opportunity to shed light on the digital divide in healthcare that negatively impacts many people living with diabetes in Europe. Merriam Webster defines the digital divide as ‘the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not.’ When this concept is applied to the digitalisation of health systems, it becomes apparent that similar issues exist relating to digital literacy, income levels, education, and other social factors that can determine one’s health. Digital health has the potential to revolutionise healthcare, including diabetes care and management, but it must work for and be accessible to people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
The digital divide in healthcare directly correlates to health inequalities in Europe. Unfortunately, equal and uninterrupted access to the highest quality healthcare amongst and within European countries still does not exist today. We must ensure that digitalisation does not contribute further to the problem. Working to close these health inequalities should be at the top of the political agenda in order to improve the lives of people living with diabetes and other chronic conditions, and to allow healthcare workers to deliver the highest possible quality care.
In January 2021, Portugal took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. One of the key pillars of their programme is to create a ‘social Europe’ as outlined by the European Pillar of Social Rights. According to principle 16, ‘everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality’. This is particularly relevant in relation to progressive conditions like diabetes, whereby the individual needs to access care throughout their lifetime. On the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, we call for equal and affordable access to adequate healthcare to be at the top of every policymaker’s agenda.