Specializing in what it calls “youth-centered health design,” YTH (short for Youth, Tech and Health) partners with companies, institutions and organizations to implement new ways to use technology to advance the health of youth and young adults. The Oakland, Calif.-based organization believes that young people need honest information, deserve to have their voices heard, and have a right to live healthy lives without shame or fear.
Through projects and partnerships with organizations like the Ford Foundation, the Metta Fund and the California Family Health Council, YTH aims to discover what works, pilot innovative solutions and disseminate technologies that are truly effective for engaging young people.
As part of its effort to fulfill that mission, YTH will hold a conference, called YTH Live, May 7-9 at the Bespoke co-working space in San Francisco. Evolving from the Sex::Tech: Conference on New Media, Youth and Sexual Health series, YTH Live will revolve around YTH’s core concerns: youth, technology and health.
“We started locally as a nonprofit, with our founder working out of a small space in her house,” Sheoran told me. They launched a text messaging campaign called SexINFO to promote safe and responsible sex to young gay men.
Within a few years, YTH began successfully reaching young people through technology and social media, and was using pioneering strategies, including banner ads on dating sites, to reach young gay men. These days, YTH has grown to include efforts such as these:
- Youth-centered health design: a unique approach that integrates human-centered design and positive youth development.
- Technical assistance to other organizations.
- Discovering what works through formal and informal research.
- Holding the annual YTH Live conference to bring together techies, researchers, providers and youth leaders from around the world.
- Helping countries develop national technology and mobile health (mhealth) strategies
- Nurturing youth leaders through a youth advisory board.
What’s next for YTH? The organization is expanding its reach to include initiatives in Africa and South America, connecting with young men and women through new media and technology. In 2017, YTH plans to launch several products, including SafeZone, a first-of-its-kind peer-support anti-cyberbullying mobile app; They2ze, a mobile app for youth who identify as transgender to link them to services and resources based on their unique needs; TECHsex, a national study looking at digital trends among youth on sexual health.
YTH is also working on launching an SMS campaign in Malawi to prevent child marriages and is designing a digital mobile platform to promote reproductive health among girls in Rwanda. Moreover, YTH will continue to implement and further fine-tune its youth-centered health design approach to build innovative solutions to provide young people with information and services when they need them and where they need them.