GOSH YPAG member Zara attends National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Children and Young People (CYP) MedTech Cooperative Young Person Reviewer Workshop

By London YPAG,

How did the opportunity come about?

NIHR CYP MedTech have funding to give to researchers to explore some ideas they have for technologies that will support the mental health of young people who have long-term conditions, and their families. These researchers must write a funding application explaining how they want to use this money, because unfortunately funding can’t be given to everyone. Before choosing who to give the funding to, they think it’s important to understand what young people think about these applications, which is why they contacted YPAG’s!

About the Young Person Reviewer Workshop

On Tuesday 24 January, I joined other YPAG members to take part in this 90-minute online evening workshop. First up we learnt about how government funding is allocated to research- to cooperatives like NIHR CYP MedTech, and then how through input from young people like us, this funding is allocated to the chosen research groups. It was great to see how our suggestions as young people impact the whole process and to see where the money is going. Next, we broke off into breakout rooms of people with similar ages and discussed three separate funding applications. My group led by the lovely Jess reviewed an application from researchers wanting to launch apps for

  1. improving the mental health of families with premature babies.
  2. encouraging young people with long term health conditions to exercise safely to improve their mental health.
  3. enabling patients with a specific long-term condition to log their symptoms.

They were all such great ideas, and it was so hard to choose our favourite!

So, what was our input?

We made some suggestions on ensuring the apps are accessible to everyone, including people with learning disabilities, language difficulties and people who may not have access to smartphones and/or Wi-Fi.

We also commented how one project was very niche and proposed supporting people with a specific long term condition, and maybe the app could be broadened to other medical problems which would make sure the funding could be helping a greater number of patients. We also agreed that one of the proposals needed a name change to make sure it was relevant and interesting to young people!  At the end all the three breakout rooms came back together, and each group leader gave a summary of what their group had discussed.

Why is collaboration so important?

It’s always great to work in a group with other young people, I always find that you bounce off ideas and the conversation flows with great feedback. So much feedback that poor Jess could hardly keep up with writing everything down!

‘No research on me without me’

It’s so important that researchers take young people’s thoughts into account, as often we suggest things that adults hadn’t even thought of! It’s surprisingly hard to put yourself into the shoes of someone of a different age and imagine what they are thinking.

Focusing on mental health and well-being for Children and Young People

It was also great to discuss projects focussing on improving mental health. Our mental health is something which is so important for everyone to look after, but unfortunately is often overlooked by the medical practice since symptoms are often not visible. Young people with long term conditions and their families may be especially vulnerable to suffering mentally. So, I think it’s great that this is now being emphasised and can be implemented routinely in medical care. We must look after our body AND our mind!

Zara, GOSH YPAG member