Digital health interventions need to be tailored to cultural backgrounds.

The International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (ISRII) conference was held in Auckland from the 13-15 February – the first time since being established in 2004.  With over fifty percent of international delegates attending, the conference provided an opportunity for individuals to discuss and learn more about chatbots, to building more effective interventions using virtual reality, the internet, Instagram, digital gaming, mobile and wireless devices, remote sensing and robotics.

Dr. Ricardo Muñoz (Palo Alto University in California) in his powerful and moving keynote presentation titled “Indigeneity, Diversity, and Equity in Internet Interventions” stressed the need for designers and behavioural scientists to partner with indigenous peoples, NOT pity them.  He also believes the creation of digital apothecaries would increase global access to healthcare at no cost, particularly among minority and low socioeconomic populations.  This was also reiterated on the second day by keynote speaker Dr Rita Orji (Dalhousie University, Canada) who reminded delegates that many games and interventions need to be tailored to cultural backgrounds otherwise it will fail. 

Pasifika innovations which have led by example by having Pacific design specifically for Pacific include Aunty Dee’s online wellbeing tool (presented by Dr Monique Faleafa from Le Va), the Play Kindly parenting app for Pasifika families (presented by the Play Kindly team – Dr Esther Cowley-Malcom, Dr Gerhard Sundborn, Ali Cowley and Professor Sally Merry), and the Ola Ora app which has been codesigned by Maori and Pacific participants (presented by Dr Lisa Te Morenga, University of Otago).  PhD candidate Manusiu Latu (University of Auckland) also presented on the use of Talanoa when co-designing with Pasifika people.

As the move towards digital technologies becomes increasingly popular in NZ, we need to ensure we don’t increase the digital divide when designing interventions, which is highlighted in a blog I wrote here. The next ISRII conference will be hosted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2020.  If you want to know more, key people to follow on twitter include @TheISRII @i4health @HealthTechPitt (ISRII president) @ehealthnewsnz

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