4 Key Themes on Youth, Tech, and Health

Content From: HIV.govPublished: July 10, 20184 min read


YTH Live Logo

Youth Tech Health (YTH) Live 2018Exit Disclaimer recently brought together leaders and advocates interested in using technology to improve the health of youth. What makes YTH Live different than other tech conferences? Youth are actively involved in both the planning of the conference as well as the sessions, giving the conference attendees the unique opportunity to experience health and technology issues from the perspective of their audiences.

We’ve summarized four key themes and learnings from the conference below:

Theme 1: Try User-Centered Design

User-Centered Design (UCD) is exactly what it sounds like: a design process that focuses on the users at every stage. UCD considers the user’s experience holistically, and designers imagine the ways their audience is likely to use the product as well as their needs and emotions. The result? UCD can help designers create products that seamlessly integrate into their audience’s daily lives. Several conference presenters credited their success to implementing UCD in their product, content, and campaign development. Are you interested in learning more about UCD? We like this article on UCD basics by our friends at Usability.Gov.

Theme 2: Design with your audience, not for your audience

Similarly, many conference presenters highlighted the value of designing alongside members of their audiences of focus. Partnering with your audience from the very beginning of the process allows designers to create real solutions that are relevant to your audience’s unique lived experience.

“YTH believes in the resilience and wisdom of young people and engages them as members of the design teams right from prioritizing the challenge, all the way to the development of the final solution. This ensures that the solutions that are designed are authentic and based in young people's reality of where they live, learn and play. The youth-centered health design strategy allows us to not only be innovative but also provide youth that participate in it with information and new skills,” shared Sheoran Bhupendra, SMD MBA, Executive Director of YTH. He and his team have two decades of experience designing public health solutions to problems youth are facing.

Theme 3: Thinking about mobile apps? Think again

More than 77% of Americans own smartphones. It would make sense to create a mobile application to reach your audience. However, members of a panel cautioned against creating a mobile application without thoroughly understanding your audience and cost. Consider your app: is it worth someone’s data and limited memory space? If it’s not, users are likely to quickly dismiss your app. Instead, consider creating a mobile-enhanced web page for your product. Your user won’t need to download anything (more space on their phones for #selfies), but your content will still be easy to navigate!

Theme 4: Pilot new technology for health

A chatbot to encourage safe sex practices among Native American young adults and a virtual-reality experienceExit Disclaimer that takes users into an immersive partner violence situation were just two of the innovative new technology products on display during the conference this year.

We asked David Stephens, BSN, RN, Multimedia Project Specialist, and Stephanie Rushing, PhD, MPH, Project Director, at We R Native to share more about their chatbot:

“The Text 4 Sex Ed service is an effective, culturally-relevant text messaging intervention that promotes condom use and STI/HIV testing among Native youth. Youth can text SEX to 97779, and will receive 2-3 text messages per week for 3 months.”

When piloting a new tool, it’s important to think about measurement and evaluation from the very beginning. David and Stephanie conducted an evaluation among their target audience and found that their chatbot was effective in encouraging youth to get tested:

“To evaluate the program, we recruited nearly 400 youth 15-24 years old, and tracked changes in their sexual health knowledge, attitude, self-efficacy, intention and behavior. Participants reported significant improvements in condom use attitude, condom use behavior, and STD/HIV testing intention (p<.05). More than 40% of those who had not recently been tested for STDs or HIV at baseline were tested during or three months post-intervention. The Text 4 Sex Ed service currently has 374 active subscribers, and has been tailored for AI/AN youth in Alaska and the Navajo Nation,” said Stephanie.

While new technology can often be costly and challenging for healthcare providers and community-based organizations to implement, our team thinks it is important to understand use of new technology in the public health and HIV/AIDS space. This can help you understand how your audience likes to consumer content as well as be prepared for the future. In addition, facets of new technology could be adapted to existing platforms: rich storytelling and a first-person narrative can help the audience really feel what it’s like to be in a given situation. How could you use storytelling and personal narratives to evoke emotion?

Are you using new technology or user-experience design? Do you include your audience in the planning process? We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us at @HIVgovExit Disclaimer and tell us about your experiences.

If you’re interested in learning more about the themes we’ve shared above or have questions about using new digital tools for HIV/AIDS communication, we’re here to help! Register for a Virtual Office Hours session and a member of our team will provide you with one-on-one support.

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