IGF 2021 WS #114
Telehealth as Human Right: Mental Health,Racism & Humanities

Organizer 1: Yuanyuan Fan , College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University
Organizer 2: Xingdong FANG, College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University
Organizer 3: Bu Zhong, Pennsylvania State University

Speaker 1: Bu Zhong, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Xingdong FANG, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Xianhong Hu, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Yuanyuan Fan , Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Bu Zhong, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Yuanyuan Fan , Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Bu Zhong, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Social inequality and the pandemic: What can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic context about the relationship between digital inequality and social and economic inequality? Similarly, what lessons can be drawn with respect to the pandemic and Internet-related human rights? What does this suggest about policy approaches for digitalisation and digital inclusion?
Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?

The WHO survey of 130 countries reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of countries around the globe when the demand for mental health keeps surging. While 70% of the countries have adopted telehealth to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the uptake of these interventions. More than 80% of high-income countries reported deploying telehealth to bridge gaps in mental health, compared with less than 50% of low-income countries. However, telehealth’s full potential is being significantly curtailed by the same forces of systemic racism and health disparities that compromise the healthcare systems. This workshop is organized to address the topics of social disparities and racial injustice related to mental healthcare by promoting the IGF 2021 main focus areas of “economic and social inclusion and human rights” and “universal access and meaningful connectivity.”


3. Good Health and Well-Being
10. Reduced Inequalities
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: The experts in mental health research and neurology will analyze the barriers of caring people with mental health issues, which could involve racism or discrimination, patients’ socioeconomic status, financial challenge, neighborhood segregation, geography, social patterns, and access to health care as well as cultural beliefs. To make good use of telehealth, it is important to let people have internet access without restrictions, which should be treated as basic human rights. Hence, joint efforts are needed to investigate social and economic determinants concerning mental health care during the global pandemic, which is about “universal access” to health care and “meaningful connectivity” between patients and medical professionals at the 2021 IGF.


This workshop aims at discussing the challenges of offering mental health care during a public health crisis as a stress test for the global pandemic response. One big lesson the world has learned during the pandemic is that health care is fundamentally about people, which is built on doctor-patient, nurse-patient, doctor-nurse, nurse-aid relationships. These relationships are as important as the reams of technical expertise and mechanical prowess that are required to carry out procedures, treatments, and tests. If any of these relationships break down, the level of care patients receive can suffer, which is particularly true for those with limited resources. The humanities help us understand and relate to people – a crucial factor in building and maintaining relationships and, thus, in providing effective health care. Improving health policy-makers’ and medical professionals’ abilities to understand and relate to patients is one of the primary issues the emerging interdisciplinary field of medical humanities is trying to address. This workshop will focus on – from regional perspectives – emerging health topics such as (a) The rise of telehealth and social disparities for better caring for those with low-resources settings; (b) the role of internet access and literacy as a human right; (c) the role of humanities as the ways of repairing some of the inequities of the healthcare systems; and (d) reducing health disparities for better health outcomes for patients in low-resource settings. This workshop invites the global community to take part in an unprecedented online advocacy event that will call for increased investment in mental health at all levels – from individuals to businesses to countries to civil society ̶ so that the world can fight racial injustice and close the gaps revealed in the COVID-19 pandemic and be prepared for other public health crises.

Expected Outcomes

Our speakers are medical professionals and healthcare researchers from around the world who have shared the expertise in the areas of mental health, social inclusion, and humanities. They will share their perceptions and experiences in addressing social, economic, and health disparities for the public, especially those who lack of social status and economic resources. The lessons of mental health care during the pandemic clearly suggest that the root of the mental health disparities can be much deeper than what the public has known, which merits a more thorough examination. Expected outcomes include novel evidence-based insights produced on the key socioeconomic factors that facilitate and impede translation and uptake of health disparities.

The general outline of the session includes a high-level presentation of the regional situation regarding telehealth and will be followed by two rounds of short interventions from invited speakers from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Saudia Arabia, and the United States that will delve into particular realities and concrete cases from selected countries. The floor will be opened for the interventions of interested participants from the audience, online and offline, who will help understand the regional contexts and barriers and point to best practices and ways forward to advance the healthcare outcomes. This workshop provides the opportunities of both virtual and in-person participation. Some stakeholder groups including those in Poland will be invited to join the discussion by the rapporteurs.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.