Health tech innovations are not only pioneering the ways people access healthcare, they also provide a platform for people to understand more about their bodies. This is especially true for women, who are worse affected by the limitations of health and sex education, and so are key targets for these kinds of opportunities.
The innumerable possibilities of health tech illustrate the potential for how it can be used as an education tool, manifesting in anything from wearable tech, to e-learning apps and AI-powered solutions, and which are topics that will be explored further at HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Digital Event (7-11 September 2020).
Providing access to health information
Health tech’s educational capacity emerged from the experience of those who saw the harm of ignorance and misinformation firsthand.
Dr Deborah Maufi, a project manager at the Health[e]Foundation, was one such individual. Although acknowledging that women’s health rights in her native Tanzania are “sort of an issue”, it was not until she was tasked with setting up a family planning clinic for working women that she understood the breadth of the problem.
“It made me really aware…that a lot of educated women also don’t know [about their reproductive rights]. Now imagine those who are not educated at all.” In response, she developed the MyHealth@Hand app, which connects pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa with healthcare workers. “They can share health data and also the woman has access to health information about pregnancy and the newborn and can also chat to the healthcare professional in the app.”
By educating women on what to expect from their pregnancy, they are empowered to make healthier choices and to participate in economic activities without worrying about their health. It also means they are more informed when meeting with doctors, relieving some of the pressures on the healthcare system and enabling better quality care.
Breaking down taboos
Dominnique Karetsos, co-founder of the Healthy Pleasure Collective, experienced how the beauty industry dictates the standards and language of beauty and sexuality, controlling consumer behaviour rather than allowing women to “own their own narratives”. After having a child, she became more aware of the societal structures on her life. “This correlation between business and personal life suddenly brought to light that, in innovation and investment, those making decisions could not relate to our issues,” she says.
Working with brands such as Lelo, Elara.Care and MysteryVibe, Karetsos and her partner Dr Maria Peraza Godoy, formed Healthy Pleasure Collective, a sex tech agency supporting investment, innovation and education to help startups that “close the trifecta between health, sex and technology”, all the while forging a new, humanistic and non-judgemental language around pleasure.
“We take very little time to learn about ourselves,” she tells MobiHealthNews. “We only model what we see, what we consume and what we digest, and a lot of the time we’re digesting a lot of subliminal or unconscious biases. There’s copious amounts of research on the mental health and physiological health that goes with receiving pleasure…it’s about normalising that conversation.”
The key benefit of combining education with the digital is its accessibility. “Almost everything that we do now is digital,” comments Deborah Maufi. “Even in developing countries: you see the economy's very low, but people still have access to smartphones.
“And even though it's not hundred percent penetrated, [it’s still] a big number and it's rapidly growing, so then why not use this tool that's already in their hands to provide them with the right information that they need?
“Everything is really going digital now. So it’s good that we also take good advantage of it.”
Dominnique Karetsos agrees. “[It’s about] creating a real solution that facilitates a language, a dialogue…anything that’s going to benefit me on a physiological, psychological and even spiritual [level], equalising the imbalance of information, and accessibility is a key part of that.”
Thank you for your time. More information about HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Digital Event (7-11 September 2020) can be found here.
MobiHealthNews is a HIMSS Media publication.