A Health and Wellness Living Lab to respond to the challenges of the Covid-19

None of us would have thought that we would ever experience a situation like the one caused by COVID-19. In a matter of days, the global health system has been subjected to a stress test of global magnitude, which has had consequences on the global system economically and socially. Little by little, we begin to realize the impact the pandemic has left on us. The health system has been able to weather the storm even though it has come to glimpse its limits.

To face the challenges that the future holds for us, we have the experience lived individually and collectively. But for this reason, we need to listen to the professionals in the social and health field and the users who, in the last instance, are the beneficiaries of the interventions that are made at the level of health and social welfare.

In this line, Neàpolis has promoted the creation of the Living Lab of Health and Welfare, which aims to meet the challenges in terms of health and social welfare and identify the needs of different groups in the social and health sector as well as users-beneficiaries. This living lab is part of the Garraf Territorial Specialization and Competitiveness Project (PECT), on Active and Healthy Aging and Dependence, coordinated by the Garraf County Council , and is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund FEDER Catalonia 2014-2020.  In addition to the Living Lab in Neàpolis, the PECT Garraf is carrying out a series of projects through various organizations: the Institute of Robotics for Addiction ; the Ave Maria Foundation of Sitges ; the Polytechnic School of Engineering of Vilanova i la Geltrú EPSEVG – UPC  and the Alt Penedès-Garraf Health Consortium .

An innovative ecosystem made up of three communities

A living lab is an ecosystem committed to open innovation and user-centered design, where the agents involved in the quadruple helix (company, research centers, public administration and citizens) are involved in the co-operation. creation of solutions through participatory methodologies. Living labs have five elements that characterize it: active user involvement, application in a real environment (testing and experimentation), multi-agent participation (end-user involvement and other agents), a multi-method approach (with different methods and tools) and co-creation (iteration of design cycles with different agents).

The living lab aims to create a space of interrelation between the various agents involved in the field of health and social welfare, in order to create innovative solutions to challenges and needs in this field. Therefore, it is designed to develop the following functions: 1) scanner of needs and challenges in the field of health and social welfare; 2) space of interrelation between the agents of the quadruple helix; 3) innovative ecosystem, which allows the creation of innovative solutions; and 4) technology-based project laboratory. In this sense, the living lab is the social technology we use to create a social and digital ecosystem, in this case, made up of three main communities: the community of health and wellness specialists in Vilanova i la Geltrú and Garraf; the community of active, responsible and innovative users (emphasizing the senior community); and the community of entrepreneurs of Vilanova i la Geltrú and Garraf. These three communities have different interests but all of them are related and linked by the needs and challenges of the field of health and well-being from a health paradigm.

Telecare, user involvement and the fight against loneliness

As the first activities to involve the agents and identify the challenges in terms of health and well-being, two virtual discussion groups have been organized with professionals in the social and health field throughout the months of June and July. Between the two sessions attended by more than 30 people, who made contributions based on their field of expertise and personal experience.

Among other topics, participants stressed the importance of focusing the intervention on people, improving coordination in the intervention, looking for mechanisms to normalize telecare, involving the user community and improving participation and communication. with users. On the other hand, the importance of accompanying people in order to fight loneliness, take care of caregivers and consolidate a community that supports this care was also emphasized, especially for the elderly and dependent people. , as part of a caring city. All these issues call for a coordinated response that in many cases can have a derivative where technology can add value when defining possible solutions.

Photo by Cory Checketts on Unsplash