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  • Lloyd Price

The Commonwealth Digital Health Initiative (CWDHI)

In December 2015, the Sri Lanka Medical Association, nominated Prof. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake to be its nominee for the President of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) [] from 2016 to 2019. Prof. Dissanayake, with is background in genomics and biomedical informatics, propose the setting up of a Commonwealth Digital Health Network as the flagship project of his Presidency.

He presented this to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Health (CACH) at its meeting from 17 to 18 March 2016 and invited the CACH to convene in Colombo in October 2016 during the CMA’s Triennial Conference. Prof. Dissanayake presented his plans for the network to the Council of the CMA at its meeting on 13 October 2016 and it was accepted.

The Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA)

The Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) held its 24th Triennial Conference on the theme ‘Digital Health for Health and Wellbeing’ in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 14 to 16 October 2016 []. This conference was preceded by the meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Health (CACH) from 12 to 13 October 2016. The deliberations of the CACH and the deliberations during the 24th Triennial Conference of the CMA resulted in the ‘Colombo Declaration’. The declaration emphasized the importance of Digital Health.

The Commitment was further strengthened during a visit of the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth Secretariat on 16 January 2017 []. The CACH met again from 21 to 23 March 2017 in London, UK and approved the Commonwealth Policy brief on “Digital Systems for One Health Global – Health Security and Health Systems Strengthening in the Digital Era”. This policy brief was presented to the commonwealth health ministers at the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM) on 21 May 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was envisaged that a Commonwealth Digital Health Network be set up with a central hub based in London working in collaboration with regional hubs in Commonwealth nations. This commitment was reaffirmed at the 2nd Commonwealth Digital Health Conference held in Colombo from 10 to 12 October 2017 []. The Commonwealth Center for Digital Health (CWCDH) which would be formally launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in London on 20 April 2018 would serve as the central hub of the Commonwealth Digital Health Network.

The Commonwealth Digital Health Initiative (CWDHI) is a project of the Commonwealth Medical Association. The vision of the CWDHI is to empower commonwealth countries to take leadership in digital health.


The mission of CWDHI is to build an advocacy network of professionals in Commonwealth who can uplift health sector by supporting the development of digital health infrastructure and human resource by fostering multi-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships.


  • To hold an annual digital health conference. [In 2018 this would be held during the digital health week in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 8 to 12 October 2018 –]

  • To conduct an annual digital health awards programme and make the awards at the annual digital health conference.

  • To hold a side meeting at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland in May every year to showcase the award-winning scalable digital health solutions to Commonwealth health ministers.

  • To identify funding partners to support implementation and scaling up of projects selected by health ministers for implementation in their countries.

These activities would be supported and coordinated through the Commonwealth Centre for Digital Health and the Commonwealth Digital Health Accelerator.

International Advisory Committee

The executive of the Commonwealth Medical Association would serve as the international advisory committee of the CWDHI. The current membership is as follows:

President – Prof. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake [Sri Lanka]

Immediate Past President – Dr. Sulaiman Juman [Trinidad and Tobago]

Secretary General – Dr. Jaun Paul Tabone [Malta]

Treasurer – Dr. Mary Colman [Ghana]

Vice President for Europe – Dr. Gordon Caruana Dingli [Malta]

Vice President for Caribbean Islands and Canada – Dr. Colin Able [Jamaica]

Vice President for West Africa – Dr. Osahon Enabulele [Nigeria]

Vice President for South and Central Asia – Dr. R. A. Jaylal [India]

Vice President for South East Asia and Australia – Dr. Ravindra Naidu [Malaysia]

President of the Commonwealth Medical Association Trust – Dr. Sundram Arulrhaj [India]

Secretary of the Commonwealth Medical Association Trust – Dr. Oheneba Owusu-Danso [Ghana]

Project Director

Prof. Vajira H. W. Dissanayake

Project Technical Support Partners

Health Informatics Society of Sri Lanka – for conference organization and administering the awards programme

Dr. Roshan Hewapathirana

Dr. Pandula Siribaddana

Dr. Achala Jayathilake

KPMG – for supervising the awards selection process.

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