Unlock Digital Health Promotion in LMICs to Benefit the Youth

PLOS Digital Health 2(8): e0000315, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pdig.0000315

17 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2023 Last revised: 22 Sep 2023

See all articles by Agata Ferretti

Agata Ferretti

ETH Zürich - Department of Health Sciences and Technology

Effy Vayena

ETH Zurich

Alessandro Blasimme

ETH Zurich

Date Written: January 26, 2023


As digital technologies such as smartphones and fitness bands become more ubiquitous, individuals can engage in self-monitoring and self-care practices, gaining greater control over their health trajectories along the life-course. These technologies appeal particularly to young people, who are more familiar with the use of digital devices.

How this digital transformation facilitates health promotion is therefore an intensely debated topic. However, most research to date focuses on the promise and peril of digital health promotion (DHP) in high-income settings, while the prospects of digital health promotion in low- and middle-income countries remain largely unexplored.

This paper aims to fill this gap by critically examining key ethical challenges of implementing DHP in LMICs, with a specific focus on young people. In the existing literature, we identified potential impediments as well as enabling conditions. The aspects to consider in unlocking the potential of DHP include (1) addressing the digital divide and structural injustice in data-related practices; (2) engaging the target population and responding to their needs given their specific economic, cultural, and social contexts; (3) monitoring the quality and impact of DHP over time; (4) improving responsible technology governance and its implementation. Addressing these concerns could result in meaningful health benefits for populations lacking access to more conventional healthcare resources.

Funding Information: This work was supported by Fondation Botnar [grant number OOG-20-024].

Declaration of Interests: The authors declare that they have no known competing interests.

Keywords: ethics, digital health promotion, mHealth, global health, LMICs, young people, AYAs

Suggested Citation

Ferretti, Agata and Vayena, Effy and Blasimme, Alessandro, Unlock Digital Health Promotion in LMICs to Benefit the Youth (January 26, 2023). PLOS Digital Health 2(8): e0000315, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pdig.0000315, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4338613 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4338613

Agata Ferretti (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich - Department of Health Sciences and Technology ( email )

Hottingerstrasse 10 (HOA)
Zurich, 8092

Effy Vayena

ETH Zurich ( email )

Zurich, 8001

Alessandro Blasimme

ETH Zurich ( email )

Universitätstrasse 2
Zurich, 8092

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