One of six global trends in health equity

Harnessing Data to Support Health

Increasing access to personalized health information is shifting the role that individuals play in their own health journeys. Health systems must create an equitable playing field for health information development, access, and use.

Global Trend

What is changing?

  • 30% of the world’s data volume is generated by the healthcare industry, and it is increasing faster than other sectors such as finance and media.

  • Health information is increasingly accessible to individuals through the internet and novel technology. For instance, the use of wearable devices that collect health data has dramatically expanded, from 325 million to over one billion users, from 2016 to 2022.

  • Access to health information is not equitably distributed. In Denmark, those with higher education levels accessed online health information over 50% more often than those with lower education levels.

  • For individuals who can access, interpret, and act on health data, it has positive health benefits, including smoother physician-patient communication.

  • As people seek health information online, the risk of interacting with health misinformation increases. Up to 87% of health information posts on social media were found to contain misinformation.

How are specific groups impacted?

  • Those without access to the internet or digital tools (e.g., rural populations, women) or with low digital literacy (e.g., older adults) may be left behind.

  • Marginalized groups are often excluded from clinical research studies, meaning they are vastly underrepresented in health information sources.

  • Individuals with lower levels of education, who speak a different language, or who have irregular legal status face barriers to navigating, understanding, and utilizing health information effectively, making them more vulnerable to misinformation.

How is this trend reflected in the U.S.?

US Context, Digital Health 3 Desktop

Historically, health data is not representative of U.S. minority populations. For instance, in oncology trials, only 2% of participants were Black women, compared to 84% White women. Black women have been consistently excluded from medical representation, a factor that contributes to high rates of Black maternal mortality.

Quick Facts

  • Americans are increasingly leaning on online health information and personalized health data collection as key health resources.
  • Nearly 70% of U.S. adults report using the internet as their first source of health information before going to other health sources or healthcare providers.
  • Almost 1 in 3 Americans use a wearable device (i.e., smartwatch, monitor). However, wearable devices are most common among those who are 18–49 years old, have higher-income, and are college-educated.
  • Within the U.S., health misinformation poses challenges for individuals trying to effectively navigate digital health information. In a recent U.S. survey, more than half the respondents were uncertain if 10 false health-related claims were true or not.
  • Access to health information shifts the onus to the individual: 75% of Americans believe that “people are in control of their own health." While this belief may empower certain individuals to be strong agents of their health, it also minimizes the importance of systemic factors that influence individuals’ ability to access and leverage health resources.

Solutions From Around the World

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  • Alphabetical Listing

Crosscutting Themes

Multisolving for Climate Change

Equitably Leveraging AI

Multisolving for Climage Change icon.


Historically, strong links between environmental and health issues have shaped critical environmental policies (e.g., the Montreal Protocol limiting chemicals that cause both ozone depletion and increase cancer risk). How might tracking nuanced health information related to climate change enable better climate advocacy?

Reliance on digital health information and at-home health equipment, like blood pressure monitors, medical alert systems, and telemedicine platforms often require reliable service or electricity. These services can be disrupted by climate events like heat waves, storms, or floods. How can we consider low-emission electrical grid resilience in connection with maintaining access to critical at-home or digital health services?

Equitably Leveraging AI icon.


As digital health information grows, AI becomes crucial for quickly sorting through health data and providing valuable insights. However, data used to train algorithms can be more than 75% male and 80% White, which is not representative of the full population. How can the U.S. ensure AI analyses of health are representative of full populations?

AI’s ability to exponentially increase the spread of misinformation poses a major health threat, especially for those with low health literacy. How might policymakersguard against AI tools spreading health misinformation through their services?

Connections to Caregiving


Increasing access to health data and information can better equip caregivers to provide care. This may contribute to task shifting as individual’s health needs are managed by those close to them, and direct interactions with medical professionals are reduced.

Related Content


Six Global Trends in Health Equity

Explore the full analysis of six health equity trends emerging across the globe to learn how communities and decisionmakers are responding to them and their implications for the U.S.