A public health ethics exploration of a novel mobile health application for public health surveillance
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School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Canada
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1657
Background and Objective: Digital health technology is poised to advance medicine across adult and aging populations but there is a social and ethical opportunity cost attached to this unprecedented advancement in technology. Moreover, these outstanding accomplishments of the 21st century often misalign with public health and global health goals such as the SDG (3) which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages”. The proposed study will first assess the expected health benefits for a target population in Canada of a novel mobile health application (app) against a systematic ethical framework. The app collects health data from mobile products, wearables, and wireless blood pressure cuffs to capture overall physical and mental health and detect the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. The mobile health app has been created at the Ubiquitous Health Technology Lab (UBILAB). Methods: Using qualitative measures, the proposed study will evaluate the (1) impact on individual autonomy; (2) impact on equity and (3) unintended impacts as a result of using this mobile health app from a Public Health and Ethics (PHE) perspective. Results: The results will be presented in a table based on the systematic ethical framework by Marckmann and colleagues by answering the following questions in an evaluation: Is there health-related empowerment? (2) How equitable is the access to the public health intervention and what is the remedy? (3) What are the potential negative effects of using wearables and sensors? (4) How is respect for individual autonomy expressed? Conclusions: The practice of PHE has complementary tools useful for examining the social and ethical factors affecting the quantifiable aspects of a digital health technology. The proposed study aims to inform practitioners and decision-makers in health policy with proposed guidelines on how to manage the ethical aspects of digital health technology.
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