Defining the scope of digital public health and its implications for practice and research
Aidan Ablona, Devon Haag, Frank Welsh, Geoff McKee, Heather Pedersen, Hsiu-Ju Chang, Hyeju Jang, Michel Irvine, Naveed Janjua, Sarah Watt, Travis Salway
Digital technologies such as social media, predictive algorithms, or connected care devices are increasingly being used in health care, where they are often referred to as “digital health”. Most of these tools have been in the context of patient care. Despite a considerable number of studies exploring use of specific digital tools for public health interventions, there continues to be limited discussion about how digital health can be integrated into broader public health practice. This is an important gap to fill, as we increasingly see more attention devoted to digital health in government strategies and research funding, while public health risks being left behind. We propose a series of activities to develop a framework for “digital public health” and identify research and practice gaps, which we will be validating with public health practitioners and researchers in BC. This research will have a direct implication for the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), to help guide the development of a new Digital Public Health program, as well as influence broader health policy discussions and directions. This work should also help identify opportunities for further research funding, which is aligned with an increasing number of funding calls related to digital technologies and health in Canada.