Boosting wellbeing through digital solutions in Europe and Central Asia

Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. In addition to the ongoing challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve experienced significant changes to our lives as a result of the restrictions on our movements, part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Faced with these no longer new realities—social distancing, fear of pandemic transmission, job insecurity, reduced physical contact—maintaining physical and mental wellbeing has become more complex than ever. Over the past year, we have not only seen the extent of the vulnerability of our social, economic, and health systems, but also how these health, economic, and social crises can rapidly become a crisis of society’s wellbeing.

The promotion of wellbeing is indispensable for any individual, community, society, and country not only in relation to positive human development and economic productivity but also with regard to societal resilience as a whole. The pandemic has exposed and amplified structural weaknesses in the health service infrastructures around the world, and the European and Central Asian region is no exception. The increased strain on countries’ health systems has created growing inequities in access to healthcare and quality of health services, impacted their ability to provide ongoing care and support to non-Covid-19 patients, and has significantly influenced the wellbeing of populations. Whether it is the increasing levels of stress and anxiety on children and families in Armenia, or the worsening psycho-emotional state of young people in Moldova resulting from isolation measures, it is becoming increasingly clear that targeting health-related challenges is a high priority.

Digital tools can strengthen capabilities, contribute to economic transformation and social inclusivity, and maintain access to broader public services. This is particularly relevant as our daily routines become increasingly dependent on our computer and phone screens. It is amidst this context that BOOST, a regional UNDP initiative for social impact innovation, focused on wellbeing as one of three challenges for its first cohort. BOOST is designed to support a wide range of digital solutions led by a variety of actors across the region—from enabling the delivery of e-health services, promoting mental resilience and physical productivity via a mobile app to creating online engagement platforms. 

Here is a selection of the work of our BOOST community that addresses immediate concerns and long-term health and wellbeing challenges:

  • Staying at home for prolonged periods of time changes our daily habits and poses a significant challenge to remaining physically active. The wellbeing mobile app Mandarin Health analyzes users’ health behaviors using artificial intelligence and displays their health status and recommendations through augmented reality. The app is designed to provide a customized development plan for physical activities and increase users’ wellbeing.
  • As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary health measures expose many people to personal and mental health issues and decrease productivity in their daily lives. The development of Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI) is closely connected to mental health, a positive career path, and employability. The mobile app Flourish allows users to learn more about social and emotional intelligence, measure their SEI, and easily track their progress via personalized games. Exploring and tapping into interrelated emotional and social competencies can be an essential first step to improving our everyday lives.
  • The combination of the closure and disruption of sexual and reproductive health services and existing shortfalls in reproductive health commodities in Turkey threatens women and adolescents in particular. The Turkish Health and Family Planning Foundation (TAPV) is working on an interactive online platform that provides education programs and training on sexual and reproductive health to improve gender equality. The platform will serve as a support mechanism that allows women to share their experiences and knowledge, and provides consulting and accurate information on coping mechanisms for women experiencing their menopause.

The past year has thrown many challenges at us, alongside carving out new realities and routines. With BOOST, we are exploring innovative ways to respond to the crisis and address the immediate needs of society’s mental and physical health.

You can discover the rest of the BOOST solutions tackling the impact of Covid-19 here. See the winners announcement for BOOST’s Innovation Challenge Fund and Civil Society Technology Challenge.

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