World Health Organisation collaboration on Chatbots

22 November 2022

CPF Adjunct Dr Lee Wilson, in conjunction with Mariana Mărășoiu from the University of Cambridge, has been working on an exciting project with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the use of chatbots in Public Health.  Chatbots, software programs designed to interact and converse in a human-like way, are now present in many aspects of our daily lives. Chatbots have played a critical role in the response to the COVID 19 pandemic, disseminating public health information and relieving the pressure on health systems around the globe. The WHO used chatbot platforms to disseminate news about COVID 19 and help mitigate misinformation about the disease.

Recently, the WHO has launched chatbots to support smoking cessation and women’s health. These innovations are the product of partnerships between the WHO and private industry, and present considerable opportunities for innovation in the use of digital technologies in public health beyond their deployment to combat the COVID 19 pandemic. Concerns remain, however, over the evidence for the use of chatbots and artificial intelligence in public health settings.

Lee and Mariana worked with the WHO to address these concerns, carrying out evidence reviews and stakeholder consultations with industry, academic experts and WHO staff. Recommendations from their report, ‘From crisis to opportunity? The WHO and public health chatbots in a post-pandemic world’ informed WHO strategy around the next steps in chatbot innovation. The report also formed the basis of an academic scoping review on the evidence for the use of chatbots in Public Health recently published by Lee and Mariana.