Science & Tech

Illustration: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum
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Wellness World is a new online platform developed by students Eve Staszczyszyn and Livia Han focusing on mental health

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Center for Disease Control has outlined the mental health issues associated with the stress and fears of the pandemic. To combat these issues, two University of Ottawa students, Eve Staszczyszyn and Livia Han worked with students from the University of Waterloo Bridging Entrepreneur to Students (BETS) Program and the Queen’s Center for Advanced Computing to develop Wellness World.

Wellness World is a portal aimed at combating the mental health crisis around the U of O community, and to provide easy access to services and support.

The portal focuses its support on the individual by allowing the filtering of content, resources and events based on the users specific needs, wants and identities.

“We believe wellness is unique to you, and your individuality and agency plays a critical role in your wellness,” wrote the team in an email to the Fulcrum. 

The portal is composed of three sections; my community, my mental health and my physical health.

‘My community’ is a section that showcases a calendar of events happening on campus and online. These can be filtered to your needs and allows for a sense of community and collaboration.

‘My mental health’ features a list of resources offered by U of O, online and in the greater Ottawa area. These too can be filtered in order to best assist your needs.

‘My physical health’ offers live streamed classes, on-demand classes, in person classes and a portal in order to book time at the gym.

Before creating the portal, the founders identified that students are overwhelmed by the confusing wellness systems and thus find it challenging to access support when needed. This in turn served as inspiration.

“Students are overwhelmed by the confusing wellness systems and thus find it challenging to navigate and access support,” stated the Wellness World team. 

The team  also found that “there is a lack of clear pathways for students to identify what support is best suited for their unique needs, wants, and identities.”

This issue is addressed in the Wellness World site by allowing it’s users to view services based on these needs. They also convinced the team that there was a need for some sort of hub to which can individually support each student.

“There is incredibly fragmented information when it comes to events, resources and services offered to students – which leads to barriers of engagement on and off campus.”

The website is a year long pilot. Meaning that the site will receive continuous updates and support funded by the University of Ottawa Students’ Union.

The website is deemed software as a service. It will meet the demands of the students for that time period, however it is uncertain if the website will continue receiving updates past its one year of support.

”We are able to understand student wellness behaviours and attitudes based on users’ behaviour on the portal,” said the team. 

“We expect this data to be valuable in mental health advocacy pursuits, data-driven funding decisions, and determination of what new offerings would benefit students most,” states Wellness World.

However, to use the program, students need to sign up using the U of O email address. This means that students are not anonymous and must use their real name and email address to access services.

In a response to this, Wellness World states “we operate with the highest security measures and ensure that personal information is stored in Canadian data centers. We evaluate analytics through a de-identified and aggregate way.”

However, one thing to note is no data transmission over the internet is always 100 per cent secure, and there is a small risk involved in any internet activity.

Looking towards the future, the team hopes more plans can be done in collaboration with the UOSU.

“We can’t exactly say what UOSU has planned, but we can assure you that WellnessWorld and UOSU plan on building off of the launched version of the portal,” said the team.

“We are committed to adding features and content that is relevant to students. We expect to be updating the portal based on the feedback and data we collect in the coming months.”

The team also accepts feedback and technical issues via email, and are constantly updating and improving the portal.