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Accessibility and inclusion in digital health
Accessibility and inclusion in digital health

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4 Digital health, children and young people

Just as adults are affected by mental health problems, so too are children. The Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre have identified a number of psychological problems in children which can manifest in a number of ways including, but not limited to:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • behavioural difficulties
  • eating disorders
  • anger
  • self-harm
  • under-performance at school
  • difficulties with friends.

While psychological therapies can provide children and young people with a space to think and talk about their problems, and also to find a variety of ways to cope, access to therapies can be limited (Cheltenham Holistic Health Centre, n.d.). Even if the services are free, they may be time-limited, meaning that only a few sessions are available. 

A number of initiatives have been developed with digital technology and children in mind, such as Chat Health. This is an intervention involving a two-way communication system, in which children and young people aged 11 to 16 can ask a nurse questions through SMS text messages. A web-based management application allows teams of school nurses to reply; this is conducted anonymously and confidentially.

Other initiatives have also been developed for use by children such as web-based initiatives to improve health and wellbeing. These initiatives and Chat Health’s digital interventions are the focus of the next activity.

Activity 4 Chat Health, the web and me

Watch the video and, as you do, make notes. This will help you to respond to the questions that follow.

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Video 3 Chat Health
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  1. From the perspective of the school nurses, what are the advantages of Chat Health?
  2. From the perspective of young people, what are the advantages of Chat Health?
  3. From the perspective of children and young people what are the benefits of web-based innovations to improve health and wellbeing?
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  1. Chat Health gives nurses flexibility; for example, they are able to respond to texts and help young people deal with issues they would otherwise not get help with. Nurses can go out to other schools to demonstrate its use and promote the app for young people. Participating in supervision also assures that the most appropriate and considered responses are provided to young people. Supervision means they can ensure that the service is delivered to a high quality standard.
  2. Children and young people are able to address issues they don’t have the confidence to raise in person via the app. They can talk about issues that they find embarrassing. Chat Health assists them in finding ways to cope. Children value the fact that the service is confidential, anonymous and that they don't feel judged as they feel they might in a face-to-face situation.
  3. For children and young people, interacting with web-based interventions to improve their health and wellbeing was appealing and fun, and it was clear that the children were engaged. For older children (those in their teenage years), becoming involved in the design of the interventions was key. They were enthusiastic, but also consulted as ‘experts of their own experience’, and this gave them the confidence to endorse an intervention. They would have also developed key skills and knowledge in the process of developing the app.

Chat Health and similar web-based interventions are able to capture a young audience and harness technology to support children and young people.

If you’re interested in exploring more about children’s mental health and wellbeing, you might be interested in the free OpenLearn course Supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

What about other age groups and other forms of digital innovation to deliver support and care? This is the focus of the next section.