Customized Conversational Interface for Teens: Planned Parenthood

Education Technology Insights | Monday, April 22, 2019

Sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies among adolescents remain a significant public health concern. Lessons learned in sex education suggest that programs need to address the broader context of sexual behavior in adolescents. There is a wide range of evidence linking adherence to hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine gender roles to negative behaviors of sexual health. Sex education helps to gain the information, skills, and motivation of young people throughout their lives to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality.

Planned Parenthood is a medical and primary health care service provider. It has launched a new service, Roo, in late January. The Roo is a chatbot to help answer questions on sexual health for teenagers. Adolescents aged 13 to 17 are the primary target audience for the technology; however, the platform is free for anyone to use. Users can ask their minds a question or pick from the platform's pre-written questions. They will receive uncensored answers to their questions and also Planned Parenthood operatives would advise them.

As more users communicate with the platform, the wider the range of questions it can answer. The chatbot technology is gender-agnostic, purposely lightweight, has a simple conversational interface and does not require a download. It allows people to ask private questions that might seem embarrassing, providing a safe place to get answers from Planned Parenthood health experts.

The chatbot was widely tested with teens at MESA High School in Bushwick, Brooklyn who gave feedback and input on what they were looking for about sexual health information online.

Roo is the latest in a series of digital products released by Planned Parenthood, including a period planning app and a virtual reality experience designed to make the organization's expertise and services more accessible. Planned Parenthood‘s chat or text program, a service that allows users to send a text or instant messages to a health educator, was a great hit with one million conversations last year. The organization expects these numbers to rise dramatically with the advent of Roo.

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