An online resource for adolescent health education. Ideas to Serve project finalist and award winner.
Our team was tasked to create a project focused on HCI for development (HCI4D). Our team came together over an interest in women's health issues- specifically menstrual education for adolescent women. We wanted to know how we could improve education on this taboo subject with the use of technology.
We chose girls reaching the age of puberty in Atlanta as our user group. Staying local allowed us to interview people who work with our target audience.
Studies show that most girls feel unprepared for their menstrual cycle to start and lack information about their biology, menstrual products, pain management, and what constitutes a healthy period (White, 2012). One study also found menstruation as the most common reason for school absenteeism among female American urban adolescents (Houston, Abraham, & D’Angelo, 2005).
Adolescents receive misinformation and feel unprepared for their periods for many reasons. These include:
A resistance to communicate or seek out important information due to stigma, (Houston, Abraham., Huang,, & D'Angelo 2006)
a lack of information given by healthcare providers (less than 2%) (Houston, Abraham., Huang, & D'Angelo 2006)
mothers’ negative attitudes and unpreparedness for menstrual conversations (White, 2012)
fewer resources and ads focused on women at the age of first menarche (Simes, Berg 2001)
We came up with multiple ideas that might be entertaining and informational resources for our target audience. These included:
An online comic book
Partnering with NGOs, public figures, and feminine hygiene brands to create media content that could be disseminated through different media outlets
An online community to share stories and get more information
Social Media campaigns that send positive messages about women’s hygiene and menstruation.
Through our teams' experience working in after school programs, we knew that young girls are attracted to online platforms that allow them to create a personalized profile and interact with content (like sites created for older users such as blogs, MySpace etc.).
We also knew girls needed an avenue to reach this content. This is why we proposed partnering with local school systems to get the word out about this resource for kids who may not have parents able to answer all their questions.
Redvolution- an online space dedicated to young women’s menstrual health, with curated, reliable, and understandable information about their most common problems. It's a digital experience that will be inclusive, accessible, and supportive for girls who are awaiting or recently began menstruation. The site could be introduced during health class to give girls the opportunity to explore information they may have missed out on in conversations with family, teachers, or doctors.
Reliable Content: Users would be able to search for content based on different categories like About your Body (biological information), Your Options (the products out there and how to use them), Stories from the Community, etc. They could also ask questions and have them answered in an age appropriate way by reliable medical professionals. *All questions would be vetted and sorted.
Starring: The ability to star content and see how many other users starred the same things. Reinforces users aren't alone in their curiosities.
Partnering: Inspirational women from diverse backgrounds share their experiences as an adolescent through blog posts or videos. Menstrual health companies could help fund the project in return for advertising space on the site.
Design: Laid out in a format that emulates popular websites and communities that they already follow. Users could personalize their profiles through avatars, colors and information preferences (contributor, topic, media type) to define and proudly display their individuality without divulging personal information.
We won the award for Best Poster at the Ideas to Serve competition hosted by the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. Our idea was also chosen as one of the finalists in the Ideas competition.
We received positive feedback from the judges and suggestions that included:
Tips for parents who wanted to learn to speak to their children about this subject
Expanding the site to grow with the women as they needed information on other subjects relating to sexual health
C.S. Scott, D. Arthur, M.I. Panizo (1989) Menarche: The Black American experience, Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 10:5,. 363-368, DOI: 10.1016/0197-0070(89)90212-X
Erchull, M. J., Chrisler, J. C., Gorman, J. A., & Johnston-Robledo, I. (2002). Education and advertising: A content analysis of commercially produced booklets about menstruation. Journal of Early Adolescence, 22, 455–474.
Houston, A. M., Abraham, A., & D’Angelo, L. (2005). Knowledge and attitudes of urban adolescent females regarding menstrual cycles. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36(2), 146. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.11.104
Houston, A. M., Abraham, A., Huang, Z., & D'Angelo, L. J. (2006). Knowledge, Attitudes, and Consequences of Menstrual Health in Urban Adolescent Females. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 19(4), 271-275. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpag.2006.05.002
Johnston-robledo, I., & Stubbs, M. L. (2013). Positioning periods: Menstruation in social context: An introduction to a special issue. Sex Roles, 68(1-2), 1-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org.prx.library.gatech.edu/10.1007/s11199-012-0206-7
M. R. Simes, D. H. Berg (2001) Surreptitious Learning: Menarche and Menstrual Product Advertisements, Health Care for Women International, 22:5, 455-469, DOI: 10.1080/073993301317094281
Sorcar P., Strauber B., Loyalka P., Kumar N., Goldman S., (2017). Sidestepping the Elephant in the Classroom: Using Culturally Localized Technology to Teach Around Taboos. doi:http://www.tandem.gatech.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/TeachAIDS-CHI-2017.pdf
White, L. R. (2012). The function of ethnicity, income level, and menstrual taboos in postmenarcheal adolescents’ understanding of menarche and menstruation. Sex Roles. doi:10.1007/s11199- 012-0166-y