Last week, I started to gather my thoughts and interests around thesis into general categories. Here’s a quick recap.

This week, I’m taking a stab at formulating a proposal statement (albeit, with a ton of question marks):

I’m making a ___?___ to be used by young women to address the disparity in women’s healthcare.

While I’m still struggling with what I’ll be making for my thesis, the problem that I’d like to address is the disparity in women’s healthcare, particularly for young women ages 19-29. By “disparity”, I’m referring to the quality and accessibility of healthcare services. And the lens through which I want to approach my thesis is the stance that health is a lifestyle, heavily influenced by preventative habits that are built long before a health related problem develops.

Potential Audience

The idea that young adults are healthy and need little to no care is simply a myth. What’s problematic is that young adults have the highest uninsured rate of any age group and this rate continues to rise. Young women, in particular, are at high risk. Because insurances companies can charge higher rates based on age, gender and health status, “young women are often charged higher premiums than men during their reproductive years” [1]. And that’s just one side of the healthcare issue.

The other involves the social stigmas and uninformed beliefs surrounding women’s health. Here are a few of my observations so far:

  • Stigmas and Myths: There’s a lack of safe and credible environments for women to share and converse regarding their health. Furthermore, stigmas still exist around topics such as menstruation and fertility. For example, women who are having issues with their periods might be immediately suspected of being pregnant. In reality, irregular periods can be the outcome of many factors.
  • Incremental Preparation is Key: As mentioned before, young adults are not invincible when it comes to health. In fact, building healthy habits early on is key to long term wellness and prevention. The idea of preparation can and should be broken down to digestible, manageable steps for young women. Healthy living doesn’t have to be so overwhelming or unattainable.
  •  More Questions than Answers: Do a simple search on “menstrual cramps” or “missed period” and you’ll find link after link of young women asking the same questions on forums and articles.”Is this normal or healthy?” “What do I do?” “Please help.”Most of the comments are questions or comments from other young women with similar symptoms and a similar lack of answers [2]. When people do try to help, it’s usually the same advice about finding a specialist. My suspicion is that there’s more to why these women cry for help on the internet and the opportunity lies in finding out what that need is and how it could be addressed.
Project Context & Research

In my own experience, I’ve been pretty dissatisfied with the current healthcare system. It’s probably why I have hypochondriac tendencies. But I do feel hopeful in that the healthcare landscape is changing. For one, people are hacking healthcare, myself included. Projects like Genomera provide open health studies, and with the rise of services enabling personal data tracking, connecting the dots in our own health profiles is becoming easier to do. There’s also a growing movement for digitizing official health records. Of course, all of this is partially influenced by technology. Sensors are becoming better and smaller and tracking devices are quickly becoming portable.

In short, there’s an influx of data, both personal and medical. My hunch is that what comes next is translating this data into meaningful insight, and subsequently, meaningful actions. I’m interested in how this could intersect with the latent needs in women’s healthcare.

Is there an opportunity in this intersection? How frequently do women track their data, let alone their health? If they don’t now, are they willing in the near future? And is this even the right hypothesis?

Intended Experience or Form

Again, while I’m still forming what my final thesis product will be, I do have a few goals in mind for the intended experience:

I hope that my thesis will…

  • Translate health data and knowledge into meaningful actions
  • Connect personal data with medical data
  • Help people ask the right questions about their health
  • Encourage healthy habits long before a health problem occurs
My Project Plan and Next Steps

What’s next? I think I’m at a good enough place to start making some hypotheses. Enough to start generating concepts. From there, I want to pick an initial idea/concept to work with and possibly prototype. Of course, this will require more research. I’m particularly interested in interviewing both young women and healthcare professionals, and if I can prototype quickly, possibly testing out my concepts with them.

Mapping out my plan (sorta):

Possibly too optimistic? :)

Sources

[1] Young Americans and Health Insurance Reform

[2] WiseGeek—What Causes Menstrual Cramps