Digital technologies in a global health context: ethical and social issues
Digital health technologies may offer solutions for resource- and infrastructure- poor countries to remotely access healthcare and modernise their health provision. Mobile health technologies and infrastructures to digitise medical records, are two popular approaches to such modernisation. This project will examine the moral controversies that emerge in the implementation of digital health solutions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by focusing on these two aspects of global digital health.
In the case of mobile health technologies, as many people in LMICs have a mobile phone and internet access and apps are often very cheap to develop, several programmes have been developed and implemented in order to provide health information and promote health awareness campaigns in rural areas (e.g. for pregnant women, for diabetes prevention or monitoring). Furthermore, apps have been developed for healthcare professionals or community workers to offer simple but effective monitoring in remote villages (e.g. to monitor retina degeneration and prevent blindness due to diabetes). These programmes are often developed in Western countries by developers who may have only a superficial understanding of local social and moral infrastructures. Indeed, some anthropological studies have shown how such innovations do not work in specific cultural contexts. The first strand of this project will involve conducting an ethnographic study of a mobile health intervention in a low- and middle-income context with the goal of identifying moral controversies that arise. The broader goal will be to identify principles of responsible and situated innovation in these contexts.
In the case of digitation of medical records, LMICs are increasingly incentivised to allow an easier access to data both within the country and outside it. Such digital access has the promise of improving global health research by providing comprehensive overviews of a country’s population health and helps defining funding agendas. However, the digitation of medical records and their sharing with other countries also raises controversies. The second strand of this project will consist of conducting interviews with key stakeholders in two different countries that are going through major digitalisation processes. The goal is to explore the moral controversies and to identify morally problematic knots.
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING
This project will involve empirical bioethics methods that combine philosophical and ethical analysis with empirical research. It will provide a range of training opportunities in empirical bioethics research methods, including literature review, conceptual ethical analysis, qualitative research and data analysis.
FIELD WORK, SECONDMENTS, INDUSTRY PLACEMENTS AND TRAINING
An ethnographic study will be done in an LMIC to explore how m(obile)health interventions are implemented and experienced. Qualitative interviews will be required with mhealth users as well as key stakeholders in the process of digitising medical records in an LMIC.
This project would suit a candidate with a background in social sciences or philosophy wishing to develop expertise in the field of empirical bioethics with an interest in global health, new technologies, and health care.