Articles

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broadly-used term, akin to the word manufacturing, which can cover the production of cars, cupcakes or computers. Its use as a blanket term disguises how important it is to be clear about AI’s purpose. Purpose impacts the choice of technology, how it is measured and the ethics of its application.

It may not be the meek that inherit the earth but the unhealthy. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 81% of young people are not getting enough exercise, 18% are obese and 75% of mental health problems will have emerged by the age of 24.

In June 1977, before entering university, I had an unlikely epiphany. My economics teacher Mr B, an ex army major, showed a film on socioeconomics which fired my imagination so much that, when I arrived at college a few months later, I changed my course from business studies to economic and social history.

Harry Potter captured the imagination of young people worldwide as he showed daily that "it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be." Perhaps, using the same mantra, we can turn around the public health disaster of poor teen mental health, though it will be technology, not Hogwarts, that delivers this education and assists their happiness and growth.

When we have the flu, a fever, or other physical ailment, or are diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer or diabetes, what do we do? Many seek immediate help from a physician or other specialty clinician, and many receive encouragement from family, friends, and employers to approach their illness with vigor. Unfortunately, that is not always the case when it comes to treating mental illness.

The doctor-patient relationship lies at the heart of much Western thinking about health. But only a few centuries ago, most people in the UK never saw a doctor. During the 19th century, the greatest strides in health and life expectancy came from improvements in nutrition, sewerage and water supply rather than the medics. But by the 20th century, doctors were much better informed about how to treat and prevent a number of illnesses.

Social media offers huge opportunities to help 'patients' become informed activists by emerging from behind the cloak of symptom and diagnosis, clutching the bottle of treatment, to become co-creators of our own health journeys. It does this by transforming the bases on which we make decisions about our health and how we engage with health professionals.