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4 Min Read

World Health Day 2023: Health For All

06 Apr 2023

The 7th of April 2023 is World Health Day, which also commemorates 75 years since the World Health Organisation (WHO) was founded to improve public health. This year, the WHO has chosen the theme Health for all, which promotes the message that we should all have an equal chance at a healthy life.

The WHO campaigns to improve health for all, seeing good health as a foundation for not only learning and working, but also supporting ourselves and others. They look to invest in better living conditions and healthcare systems across the globe, providing people with the tools they need to sustain good health. You can find more resources and information on their website.

Of course, there’s no health without mental health, and people in need of mental health treatment often face their own unique challenges when it comes to accessing care.

At ieso, we aim to play our part in changing that. For over a decade, ieso has been one of the largest providers of online, AI-enabled, human-delivered therapy within the UK National Health Service's (NHS) globally recognised Talking Therapies programme. And, as there is a worldwide shortage of therapists, with individuals in some parts of the world having no prospect of ever receiving help through therapy, we are using the knowledge we have gained to not only improve our service to the NHS but also to build clinical-grade digital therapeutics. This will help radically scale up care using automation and augmentation to make scarce clinical resources go further and democratise access to quality mental health care.

Dr Louise Marshall, Director of Mental Health Sciences explains “Digital solutions hold the promise to increase access to mental health care at a previously unimaginable scale. But scaling access will only help us achieve health for all if the treatments delivered are effective for a diversity of people with different symptoms and needs. Key to unlocking their full potential will be precise measurement of treatment variables and patient outcomes, and the application of deep data insights into which types of treatment work best for whom. Crucially, research and development must be grounded in responsible innovation and expertise-by-lived-experience to ensure digital therapeutics are safe, trustworthy and impactful for those we seek to support.”

In the spirit of WHO’s theme of Health for All, let’s take a look at some of the barriers to mental Health For All that digital therapies such as ieso’s can help overcome:


Oversubscribed healthcare systems

With over a million people on waiting lists for mental health treatment, the NHS is struggling to cope with demand. And the picture in the US is similar. Although healthcare workers are trying their best, many people aren’t getting the treatment they need quickly enough and are having to struggle through long periods of time with poor mental health.

Digital therapy has the potential to relieve this in two ways. Firstly, by enabling mental health treatment to be delivered remotely, it removes the potential hindrances of late appointments, or the need to be in a physical place during assigned office hours, making delivering and receiving care more efficient. Secondly, digital delivery has to harness the power of cutting-edge technology – such as AI. At ieso, we use this to analyse the conversation that takes place in therapy to crack the code of what works in therapy. By feeding the learnings from this data back to clinicians it can help increase the effectiveness of their therapy, leading to reduced recovery times and in turn increasing their capacity.


Mental health stigma

Although society’s awareness of mental health is improving, many people, especially certain demographic groups, feel isolated and embarrassed about their mental health, which can prevent them from reaching out for help. Digital therapy can circumvent this stigma by enabling people to access mental health therapy remotely on a computer or smartphone and can be delivered by typing without those around them realising. As a result, it can help assuage these feelings enough that more people seek help where they may not have before.


Limited access to travel

The remote nature of online therapy isn’t just beneficial for the above reasons – it’s also because travel isn’t possible for everyone. For example, some people may have disabilities that prevent them from leaving the house easily, may not be able to leave people they care for unattended, or struggle with phobias that mean they’re scared to go outside.

While these benefits are great, they are enabled by infrastructure. As digital therapy companies look to bring their solutions to further geographies, there are some structural barriers to Health For All, such as:


Digital poverty

The charity, NCFE, says that over 1.7 billion households don’t have access to the internet, with older people three times more likely to be offline, and people with low incomes twice as likely. This can be due to alack of internet availability or lack of affordable devices to connect to it. Lack of education and digital literacy can also limit people’s ability to engage with digital technologies.


Poor internet connection

Even when people have access to the internet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll able to use it effectively. Rural settings tend to have less choice of services and therefore may not be affordable. This problem isn’t necessarily limited to developing nations either – even in parts of affluent countries such as Australia, distances can be so vast as to make the internet unavailable, unreliable, or simply not cost-effective with current technology.


To summarise – digital mental health treatments have the potential to massively improve health equity worldwide, but they are just one tool in vast ecosystem of healthcare interventions and structural changes that all have a part to play in achieving Health For All.

For World Health Day, take a look at how digital therapy can help provide Health For All.