Reflections from GNU Health at WHO - ITU session WSIS 2013

This month of May I had the immense privilege to be a guest speaker in the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Communication Union (ITU) session "ICT for Improving Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health" at the World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS 2013 Forum.

The title of my presentation was "GNU Health : Improving Children and Mothers Lives with Free Software".  The presentation was on May 14th, and it was transmitted live over the Internet.

At WHO headquarters in Geneva

I keep thinking about the tremendous levels of maternal and child death, most of them from preventable diseases. This thoughts are the main drive to develop GNU Health, a tool to improve the health of millions of people in developing countries with Free Software. 

At the WSIS Forum 2013 inauguration session
GNU Health has at its heart Primary Care and the Alma Ata Declaration. We only change a letter from that declaration. To the original "Health for all", we added the "e" to become "eHealth for all".

Tily Martin and Miguel Falcon from GNU Solidario

In this sense, we fight to make health  - and eHealth - a public good. Governments should use Free Software as a way to achieve sustainable state policies in the field of public health. 

Luis Falcon during the session

It's heartbreaking to see countries paying millions of dollars to corporations in freedom-denying software licenses. Think about putting that money to improve health promotion and disease prevention campaigns, or to improve the salaries of the health professionals; or to improve the infrastructure of many health centers, just to name some ideas.

Keeping along the Alma Ata Declaration and Primary Health Care, medical technology should be accessible, affordable and feasible. We don't need expensive, science fiction hardware of software, we need affordable and effective tools in health care.

Tily Martin, Dr. Alberto Lazzero and Luis Falcon

In the talk I presented the GNU Health implementation case of a Public Hospital in Entre Rios, Argentina. GNU Health manages the city demographics, socioeconomics, families,  patient evaluations, laboratory, stock and pharmacy, hospitalizations, financial accounting, human resources and medical imaging, to name a few processes within the health center. The health center only had to invest in buying desktops in the health professional offices.

Dr. Jordi Serrano, Luis Falcon and Mr. Hani Eskandar

Health informatics is just a tool to optimize the health professional, health center and health authorities. It's not science fiction and should never replace the human factor. The role of the health professional, integrated with the patient, families and society is irreplaceable.

I had the honor to share the panel with Dr. Véronique Thouvenot (ITU), Dr. Misha Kay (WHO eHealth Unit), Mr. Hani Eskandar (ITU), Dr Ousmane Ly (National Mali Telemedicine Agency), Dr. Jordi Serrano Pons (UniversalDoctors) and Prof. Peter Bruck ( World Summit Award). 

eHealth Session Panelists

My gratitude goes to WSIS and WHO for inviting me to such an important event, and for putting Free Software (FLOSS) in the agenda. Free Software care keeps alive the Alma Ata Declaration and Primary Health Care, providing equity and universality. Health must remain a non-negotiable human right, and the free software community should be a key component to achieve this goal.

Some links :

WSIS Agenda
Pictures from Day 2 sessions

About GNU Health
GNU Health is a free Health and Hospital Information System that provides the following functionality : 
  •     Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
  •     Hospital Information System (HIS)
  •     Health Information System (Epidemiology)

GNU Health has been awarded the Best Project of Social Benefit from the Free Software Foundation in 2012. 
In 2013, GNU Health received the awards for  most revolutionary Free Software and software with the largest potential from PortalProgramas.

GNU Health is an official GNU Package , and is part of GNU Solidario. GNU Solidario is a NGO that delivers education and health to emerging economies with free software. GNU Health is the Hospital Information System chosen by the United Nations International Institute of Global Health.  GNU Solidario and the United Nations University, International Institute for Global Health have signed an agreement to implement and to train GNU Health globally.
Main site :


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