Using digital technology to reduce the prevalence of mental health disorders in populations: Time for a new approach

C. Barr Taylor*, Josef I. Ruzek, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, Naira Topooco, Ruth Striegel Weissman, Daniel Eisenberg, David Mohr, Andrea Graham, Corinna Jacobi, Brian Oldenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Digital technology, which includes the collection, analysis, and use of data from a variety of digital devices, has the potential to reduce the prevalence of disorders and improve mental health in populations. Among the many advantages of digital technology is that it allows preventive and clinical interventions, both of which are needed to reduce the prevalence of mental health disorders, to be feasibly integrated into health care and community delivery systems and delivered at scale. However, the use of digital technology also presents several challenges, including how systems can manage and implement interventions in a rapidly changing digital environment and handle critical issues that affect population-wide outcomes, including reaching the targeted population, obtaining meaningful levels of uptake and use of interventions, and achieving significant outcomes. We describe a possible solution, which is to have an outcome optimization team that focuses on the dynamic use of data to adapt interventions for populations, while at the same time, addressing the complex relationships among reach, uptake, use, and outcome. We use the example of eating disorders in young people to illustrate how this solution could be implemented at scale. We also discuss system, practitioner-related, and other issues related to the adaptation of such an approach. Digital technology has great potential for facilitating the reduction of mental illness rates in populations. However, achieving this goal will require the implementation of new approaches. As a solution, we argue for the need to create outcome optimization teams, tasked with integrating data from various sources and using advanced data analytics and new designs to develop interventions/strategies to increase reach, uptake, use/engagement, and outcomes for both preventive and treatment interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere17493
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Internet
  • Mental health, interventions
  • Outcome
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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