Youth-Driven Innovations in Health

“Self-centered.” “Short-sighted.” “Can’t concentrate.” These words and more have been used to describe the latest group of adolescents, which many have taken to calling “the Selfie Generation.” It’s true that those of us who have grown up with cellphones and social networks have developed certain habits: we get news online instead of from the paper, and spread it so fast a movement can organize overnight. Rather than be dependent on musty tomes and preaching professors, we find things out for ourselves with tools like Google. We take in more information per minute than any previous generation, about friends, family, society, pop culture, and the world, and we process it,  shape it, and use it like never before.

Take, for example, bEATen Track, the winning app at the first ever YTH Health Hackathon.

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YTH Health Hackathon 2014 participants, photo c. Stephen Texeira

With bEATen Track, a smartphone user can record the number of miles they’ve walked, run, and biked, and use them to earn food from local farmers’ markets. The app promotes exercise, healthy eating, and small businesses. It will be funded by a grant from Kaiser Permanente’s Digital Presence Technologies.

Following closely on the heels of the Hackathon came the YTH Live conference. YTH Live annually brings together the young innovators of today with health, tech, and fundraising professionals. This year’s attendees included Erik Martin, founder of EdVengers, a student-led education reform group; Niharika Bedekar, eighteen-year-old founder of Puberty Education and Support; and Jack Andraka, who won the Intel Science Award at the age of fifteen for his method of detecting pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages. All participated in the opening panel, “Inspired: Youth-Driven Innovation.” The panel was liveblogged here and can be seen in its entirety here.

Another feature of YTH Live was the “By Youth, For Youth” discussion featuring Audrey Gabe of EngenderHealth and Dr. Fay Cobb Payton of MyHealthImpactNetwork.org. Audrey developed and manages an online peer leadership program for teen participants of Gender Matters, EngenderHealth’s Texas-based teen pregnancy prevention project. MyHealthImpactNetwork.org is a student-designed blogsite directed particularly at young black women. It focuses on socioeconomic disparities in health care, and shares information about health issues from HIV to mental illness.

YTH Live isn’t the only place to find young innovators, though. Don’t be afraid to harness the creativity of the Selfie Generation yourself: expand into social media, offer internships, even just consult with your own kids. For more tips and updates on youth innovation, subscribe to the YTH Newsletter, and Like us on Facebook. The future stretches ahead, running on digital rails; it’s time for those who are going to live in it to take the lead.


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