The future of health and justice is already here

The future of health and justice is already here

The Deputy Director of RMIT University’s Health Transformation Lab, Nithya Solomon, will address this week’s Newkind social justice conference, explaining how the future of healthcare has already arrived.

While the title of her talk is ‘The future of health starts now,’ Solomon believes “the future of health has already started” and she will focus her address on some of the Lab’s innovative health technology collaborations with partners across RMIT and industry to highlight the dynamic solutions now within our grasp, from loneliness-detecting wearables to robots and virtual healthcare experience simulators.

Solomon is just one of 40 inspiring speakers to present at the Newkind Conference, held at RMIT University’s Storey Hall from November 24 to 26, with others including former Olympian and senator Nova Peris OAM, co-founder and CEO of Streat Rebecca Scott OAM, and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis. 

The panels, lectures and workshops, which will also be broadcast live online, will cover climate action, gender and racial equality, economic justice, First Nations sovereignty and health, with the aim to inspire and initiate effective social change and a more just, equitable and sustainable world.

During her presentation, Solomon will argue that major and immediate changes across the health system have already begun, and that COVID-19 has highlighted the possibility for dynamic health solutions, especially those designed around principles of respect and wellbeing. She said this same urgency needed to be embraced for a whole range of systemic issues in health, beyond just COVID.

“There is a constant and legitimate demand and interest in the systemic solutions and actions that can really make a difference across health systems, and now more than ever, due to the current global health crisis,” she said.

“Yet, we have all this dialogue about the future as something in the distance that doesn't actually convert to immediate action. At the Health Transform Lab, we try to provoke for ‘what is the action now that can already start to introduce the types of changes we want to see in the future.

“We see our role as a provocateur and a connector across RMIT and the health system more broadly and we are always thinking about ‘what is the agency we can bring in through our work to collaborate and bring about immediate opportunities for change or knowledge?” Solomon said. 

Health Transformation Lab Deputy Director, Nithya Solomon. Health Transformation Lab Deputy Director, Nithya Solomon.

Throughout her talk, Solomon will highlight several of the ways the Health Transformation Lab is already connecting with partners across RMIT and the health and technology sectors to bring about those dynamic solutions, including a wearable, brooch-like device, that may detect loneliness, and the RMIT-Cisco sandbox that enables a virtual healthcare experience to be modelled within the lab.

“With the sandbox environments, we can collaborate with researchers, health professionals and even other technology providers to explore a whole range of issues, such as how can you better use technology to transform the waiting experience into a more effective part of health delivery?

“We’re also doing some really important work with Cisco where we are exploring some of the imaginative opportunities for using technology to address some of The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommendations, in a way that designs for dignity, respect, empowerment and life enjoyment.

“We want to discover how individuals who live in this environment can use technology to increasingly — and safely — personalise and choose what their day-to-day life and experiences look like,” she said.

Early next year, the Health Transformation Lab will also receive the Boston Dynamics robot dog, Spot, and will invite industry partners and researchers to take part in a range of trials and experiments to discover what useful deployment of a robot dog could look like for health.

“It could be a new way of doing telehealth, or a new way of automating certain tasks for carers, or an opportunity for non-intrusive monitoring, for example,” Solomon said.

The Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, developed in response to the significant impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Victorian universities, has supported several of the Lab’s current initiatives.

Solomon said health was an important topic for this year’s Newkind conference. 

“I think it’s both interesting and scary to witness the extent to which younger generations’ health and wellbeing are linked to issues of climate and sustainability and inclusion, to the point where we see the existence of conditions like climate anxiety,” she said.

“The Health Transformation Lab believes it has an important role to play in being the voice for the conversations that should be had, but perhaps may not have been had, and to be bold enough to have those conversations and advocate for change, right now.”

In keeping with this, the Health Transformation Lab is now accepting applications for a new ‘Writing the Future of Health’ Fellowship, which will see a Melbourne writer produce a creative and imaginative perspective on ‘what does the future of health look like?

 
Nithya Solomon is the Deputy Director of the RMIT Health Transformation Lab. Her talk, ‘The future of health is now,’ will be held as part of the Newkind Conference at RMIT’s Storey Hall and online on Friday, 26 November at 2.30pm.

 

Story: Rachel Wells

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