Meet the YTH Staff: Laiah Idelson


This blog post is a part of the YTH Staff Interview Series, where we are featuring an in-depth Q&A with each member of our staff.

As the Program Officer at YTH, Laiah provides leadership and support for YTH’s global and domestic mHealth and capacity building projects. Along these lines, I spoke with her about her world travels, her experience working across the spectrum of public health, and what she’s most grateful for in her work at YTH.

ERIN: You’ve worked on health projects all over the world! How has your cross-cultural experience helped to shape your point of view on the intersection of tech and health for young people?

LAIAH: I’ve had the privilege to work in a number of countries over the past few years including Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa and India. While there are obviously many differences between each country, one common theme I’ve seen around the world has been the desire of young people to be connected to their world through technology. Thanks to new ways of communicating like Facebook or What’s App, new ways of doing commerce like mPesa or on-demand delivery, and new ways of learning like ebooks and Snapchat, young people everywhere are on the cutting edge of using technology to connect with their world.

Another consistency I’ve noticed is that throughout the world — and even here in the US — there is a stigma against youth seeking health care around sensitive topics such as sex and mental health. Technology has the capacity to help change that by both enabling young people to connect with those around them as well as by allowing them to share private information around health topics. But technology is not the end-all-be-all. It’s important to remember that technology in health care is at its best when part of a larger, integrated intervention and plan. Those of us working at the intersection of youth, technology, and health need to continue to learn from each other how to best situate technology and leverage its strengths to support all youth in all countries.

ERIN: As you’re a public health expert, in your opinion, what is the great health issue affecting youth today and what examples did you see at YTH Live 2016 that helped to address it?

LAIAH: Unfortunately, today there still remain many health issues facing young people, ranging from mental to physical to emotional health. But I think the biggest issue is inequity. Minority and vulnerable populations’ health outcomes and life expectancies are still lower than high-income white populations. Almost every health issue that comes to mind as a challenge for youth is exacerbated by some people having greater abilities and foundations to seek and access care than others. We tried to address these issues last year at YTH Live by highlighting products and interventions that reached out to vulnerable and at-risk youth such as trans youth and low-income youth of color. YTH believes technology is an important tool in bridging the access gap, and that belief is the core of YTH Live.

ERIN: Since November is the month of Thanksgiving, what are you the most grateful or thankful for in your work at YTH and why?

LAIAH: I am grateful for the team of people I get to work with every day who teach me so much about the different issues we work on and what it means to be a leader. They are some of the most passionate and committed people I’ve had the chance to work with, and I’m grateful that they’re the ones amplifying the voices of today’s youth…there couldn’t be better advocates.

To learn more about Laiah and her work, read her full bio here.

Want to join Laiah at YTH Live 2017? Register today and receive a discount, as a part of our early bird registration. We only have a limited number of tickets available at this special price, so act now to claim this discount.

ZonaSegura ZonaSegura is a trauma-informed youth-centered innovative mobile solution to address teen dating violence in Honduras. Learn more about ZonaSegura on our program page.