Department of Health announces new youth health app

Department of Health announces new youth health appThe Department is still experimenting with ways to ensure adolescents, teens and young adults all receive messages tailored to their ages. The app is expected to launch in June

The Department of Health is launching a new, cell phone app to take health messaging to the country’s young people – and asking youth to help.

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The Department is still experimenting with ways to ensure adolescents, teens and young adults all receive  messages tailored to their ages. The app is expected to launch in June
The Department is still experimenting with ways to ensure adolescents, teens and young adults all receive messages tailored to their ages. The app is expected to launch in June

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced the new application yesterday (6 May) at the African regional consultation on the United Nations’ new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

Using the instant messaging application Mxit, the department will deliver health messaging to young people and allow them to participate in live chats with health professionals like gynaecologists, psychologists and even Motsoaledi.

Ahead of the application’s June launch, Motsoaledi is asking young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years to submit short, catchy titles for the application.

“I’ve decided that they, the youth of this country, must own this so they must give it a name,” said Motsoaledi as he opened a call for names for the application.

Names may be in any one of the 11 official languages but should be no more than six words. Young people can submit multiple entries and a 200-word motivation by 31 May by logging onto the mobi site yal.mobi.

The winner will receive an electronic tablet, school bag and water bottle.

Bridging the gap

The application comes on the heels of MomConnect, the department’s first mobile application aimed at expecting and new mums. Launched in August 2014, MomConnect has reached 390,000 women with information about pregnancy, birth and a child’s first year.[quote float= right]“I would go to those nurses and ask, ‘which one of you when you had sex for the first time went and told your mother?’”

Like MomConnect, the department’s new youth application will also allow young people to lay complaints about health service delivery.

“There is a gap in communication between us in them,” said Motsoaledi, describing the scheduled live chats he envisions with young people over the application. “If they want to say, ‘Minister, you are providing nothing for us,’ then let me face that reality.”

According to Motsoaledi, while most MomConnect users have been complimentary about health services, the service has received 290 complaints. Most of these were related to bad health worker attitude, he added.

He warned that district MomConnect focal points will be following up on complaints and visiting offending clinics.

As a former general practioner, Motsoaledi said he had seen young women come to clinics asking for abortions after being denied access to contraception.

“When you ask (these women) why they didn’t go for family planning, they will say, ‘I went to the clinic and the nurses said I must call my mother who must give consent,’” he told Health-e News. “I would go to those nurses and ask, ‘which one of you when you had sex for the first time went and told your mother?’”

“Some of the things we expect from (young people) maybe it’s because that was what was expected of us 30 or 40 years ago,” he added.

The department is still experimenting with ways to ensure that young people receive age-appropriate messaging, according to Pillay. To do this, the service may begin with 10 to 15 year-old adolescents before moving onto to other age groups. Certain messaging may also require children to enter pass codes to guard some content against younger children, he added – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story first appeared in The Mercury newspaper.