World Health Organization (WHO)

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Our primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.

Our main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; noncommunicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.

Description of Activities on AI

WHO’s global strategy on digital health 2020–2025[1] highlights the importance of artificial intelligence. It is deeply embedded in the 172 implementation actions endorsed by Member States, with specific focus under digital health governance and human-centred health system. Specific outputs include but not limited to create governance for the ethical use of health data in technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics; promote health innovations where appropriate including cutting-edge digital technologies, such as the use of artificial intelligence.

The digital transformation of healthcare and therapeutic development, including exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses, has shown potential to enhance health outcomes by improving medical diagnosis, digital therapeutics, clinical trials, self-management of care and person-centered care, as well as creating more evidence-based knowledge, skills and competence for professionals to support health care. With the increasing availability of healthcare data and the rapid progress of analytics techniques, AI has the potential to transform the health sector, one of the most important sectors for societies and economies worldwide. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the WHO have established the FG-AI4H to facilitate the safe and appropriate development and use of AI solutions in healthcare. To support its work, FG-AI4H created several working groups, including an ethics and governance and regulatory considerations of AI for Health working groups.

WHO recognizes that AI holds great promise for the practice of public health and medicine. WHO also recognizes that, to fully reap the benefits of AI, ethical challenges for health care systems, practitioners and beneficiaries of medical and public health services must be addressed. Therefore, the working group on Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health published a WHO Guidance to endorse a set of 6 key ethical principles focusing on: Protecting human autonomy, promoting human well-being and safety and the public interest, ensuring transparency, explain ability and intelligibility, fostering responsibility and accountability, ensuring inclusiveness and equity, and promoting AI that is responsive and sustainable. Finally, WHO hopes that these principles will be used as a basis for governments, technology developers, companies, civil society and inter-governmental organizations to adopt ethical approaches to appropriate use of AI for health. The guidance is published and available at the following link (https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240029200)

The working group on Regulatory Considerations (WG-RC) consists of 90 vetted members including representatives from regulatory bodies, policy makers, academia, and industry who explored regulatory and health technology assessment considerations and emerging “good practices” for the development and use of AI in healthcare and therapeutic development. This publication is aimed aims to deliver an Overview of Regulatory Considerations on Artificial Intelligence for Health publication that covers the following 6 general topic areas: Documentation & Transparency, Total Product Lifecycle Approach & Risk Management, Intended Use and Analytical & Clinical Validation, Privacy and Data Protection, and Engagement & Collaboration. This WG-RC’s overview is not intended as a guidance, regulation, or policy. Rather, it is meant as a listing of key regulatory concepts and a resource that can be considered by all relevant stakeholders in medical devices ecosystems, including but not limited to, developers who are exploring and developing AI solutions, regulators who might be in the process of identifying approaches to manage and facilitate AI solutions, manufacturers who design and develop AI-embedded medical devices, health practitioners who deploy and use such medical devices and AI solutions, and those working to remit.

WHO is working on several use cases:

  1. Cervical cancer as a use-case was used to illustrate the minimum standards for evidence, given the DG’s Cervical cancer Initiative and the various AI projects ongoing in the AFRO/SEARO regions and globally.
  2. Diabetic retinopathy to set the benchmark to assess efficacy and validity of diabetes . The use cases will be used to develop guidance on Implementation and scale of AI for health

Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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