What is the case for more women in health tech?

What is the case for more women in health tech?

Recently I was delighted to give a presentation at a Leeds Women in Health Tech breakfast event hosted by Health and Wellbeing Board chair, Councillor Rebecca Charlwood and Director of City Development, Martin Farrington. This forms part of a regular breakfast series in which senior council leaders and councillors bring together experts on a topic of importance to the city. I started by noting that, with a background in humanities and social sciences, I am an accidental woman in technology. My working life started in homeless charities followed by a qualification in social work. Hardly an obvious route to health technology. It was through my PhD research on the theme of mental health and online social networks that my interest in digital technology began to develop. Whilst we need more women with technology skills, the field of digital also needs people with a more diverse skill set than simply coding. This post from Rachel Coldicutt at Dot Everyone neatly makes the case for arts and social scientists in tech: “The arts and social sciences must become essential voices both in the technology industry and in the predictions that guide investment and entrepreneurship. Knowing what to do with tech must become at least as valuable a skill as knowing how to make it” It is for this reason that I am not apologetic about my non-tech background – I see it as an asset rather than a liability. In my talk, I recalled how in the early days of mHabitat I was asked to speak at an almost exclusively male event which, as someone new to the tech scene, took...
Mental distress is on the increase for young people – what part has digital technology got to play?

Mental distress is on the increase for young people – what part has digital technology got to play?

Children and young people’s mental health has been centre stage in the media this week, in the light of a recent survey published by NHS Digital. The report shows a rise in mental health difficulties, coupled with increased waits for contact with mental health specialists. A perfect storm of rising demand and reduced capacity in the system. The report precipitated a flurry of reports in the media calling for the Government to put more resources into young people’s mental health services. A Guardian article identified social media, along with other factors, as potential sources of pressure on young people’s mental health. Another focused on the role of mobile apps such as Calm Harm, and the online counselling service Kooth, in helping young people cope with distress. So what is the role of digital technology in young people’s mental health? Should we be increasing the availability of online services? And are social media good or bad for children? In a recent post I summarised findings from a representative survey of teens age 13-17 entitled Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal their Experiences (Common Sense Media 2018) which found that despite adult assumptions, most teens report social media have a positive effect in their lives, such as making them feel less lonely. And whilst vulnerable teens are more likely to report negative effects of social media (such as bullying) they are nevertheless more likely to report positive benefits, such as feeling less lonely and depressed. Whilst this is an American study, it has parallels to findings from the UK. Social media appear to have a heightened effect (both good and bad)...
Teen mental health in an online world

Teen mental health in an online world

The media is replete with dystopian tales of the negative effects of social media on young people. In a recent speech, Simon Stevens (chief executive of the NHS) suggested that the Government should consider introducing a ‘mental health levy’ to fund NHS treatment of problems fuelled by sites such as Facebook and Instagram. But how accurate is this picture and what does the evidence tell us? Earlier in the year, my co-author James Woollard and I set about understanding the views and experiences of young people with mental health difficulties in our book Teen Mental Health in an Online World. We combined a review of the evidence with a series of qualitative interviews and focus groups with young people. Our mission was to give space to young people’s voices and provide a useful guide to mental health and other practitioners who work with them. Contrary to what one might believe from the media, we found a mixed picture with both positive and negative effects. Our qualitative findings are reflected in a recent representative survey of 1,141 American teens age 13-17  Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences (Common Sense Media 2018) which uncovered some interesting insights. Firstly, most teens say that social media has a positive effect in their lives, such as making them feel less lonely. Secondly, and more relevant to our book, whilst vulnerable teens are more likely to report negative effects of social media (such as feeling left out) they are nevertheless more likely to report the positive benefits of social media in their lives, such as helping them feel less lonely and depressed. Social...