1). Please tell us a little about yourself
My name is Rebecca and I am a PhD Candidate and Research Associate in the Engagement and Co-design Research Hub in the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney. My background is in public health, and over the past 3 years have been working on multiple digital health research projects in the areas of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, online food delivery with an overall focus on improving lifestyle risk factors to prevent chronic diseases.
2). What is your research on?
My current research focus is in primary prevention of chronic diseases in adolescents. My PhD focuses on the co-design, development and testing of a 6-month healthy lifestyle text message program to support physical and mental health in adolescents and strengthen engagement with primary care. We have set up a youth advisory group (named Health Advisory Panel for Youth at the University of Sydney, or HAPYUS for short!) who are 16 young people aged 13-18 from across NSW who we work side-by-side with to develop the text message intervention. By co-designing the intervention with the end user, we can ensure that the program addresses all the top issues which adolescents currently face in terms of their physical and mental health. By delivering the program via text messages, we can reach young people Australia wide using a technology which they use daily.
3). What are the real world consequences of your research?
The rise of chronic diseases is one of the biggest issues facing today’s young people. Current approaches to obesity prevention are proving ineffective and there is an escalating mental health crisis for young people in Australia. Positively framed prevention programs which focus on good nutrition and physical activity can address both critical issues, while also addressing the stigma that is linked to traditional obesity or mental health focused programs. My research will provide high quality evidence on engagement with and effectiveness of a text message program available to all adolescents to improve physical and mental health outcomes and long-term risk of developing chronic diseases. By addressing multiple interlinked health risk factors in one program, this proposal aligns directly with the National Action Plan for Health of Young People to ‘address chronic conditions and preventive health’.
4). What does digital health mean to you?
Digital health sits at the intersection of healthcare and technology sectors and I believe it has huge potential to break down existing barriers to delivering health information, healthcare and support to people and improve access. It is multidisciplinary and by using it we can develop cutting-edge solutions to problems which have existed in the healthcare system for many years! It can also help to improve current processes in delivering healthcare.
5). Do you have any resources or links you would like to share?
In 2021, the WHO released a framework for planning, developing and implementing youth-centred digital health interventions: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240011717. I find this a great resource and for others doing research in digital health and young people this may be helpful.