We were thrilled to launch our final research report on digital health and human rights of young adults, based on 18 months of research with 174 young adults and 33 experts in Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam, policy brief based on the research, and a new working paper based on the second phase of the study in Bangladesh and Colombia.
In Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam, we found many young adults used web platforms (such as Google), social media platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube), and social chat (such as WhatsApp, Zalo) to get health information, advice and peer support on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and Covid-19. The platforms brought clear benefits to young people, but also risks of censorship, abuse, stalking and other harms. These issues were largely not addressed by national laws and policies, and by global digital health policies such as the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025.
The research was conducted using mixed qualitative methods and a transnational participatory action research approach in which communities of people living with HIV, as well as national civil society groups and human rights lawyers in Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam, participated in design of the study, data-gathering, analysis, and validation of the final results and recommendations. Our policy recommendations are outlined in a policy brief in English and Spanish.
We raised these concerns in an open letter to the director-general of WHO, Dr. Tedros, calling on WHO and other global health agencies to take action to protect young people from risks of harm when they seek health information online.
The study in Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam concludes the first phase of a multi-country study. The study continues in Bangladesh and Colombia, conducted in collaboration with social scientists at BRAC University and Universidad de los Andes, as well as civil society groups in both countries. The two universities also published their working paper based on desk review of laws and policies governing digital health in both countries, Digital Health and Rights in Bangladesh and Colombia.
We discussed the findings with researchers, social media influencers, health NGOs and an expert on sexual and reproductive health from WHO in a webinar, and the slides are below: