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August 16, 2020 29 mins

Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring Facebook's Head of Health, KX Jin, on their efforts to combat misinformation and help in the battle against COVID-19, and a mental health expert on the toll the pandemic is taking on Generation Z.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I Heart Radio Communities, a public affair special
focusing on the biggest issues impacting you this week, here's
Ryan Gorman. Thanks for joining us here on iHeart Radio Communities.
I'm Ryan Gorman, and we have some great conversations lined
up for you. In a moment. We're gonna spend some
time with the top Facebook executive to learn what they're
doing on multiple fronts to helping our battle against COVID nineteen. Also,

the reopening of schools continues to be a huge focus
across the country. I'll be joined by a mental health
expert to discuss the dynamics between college age students, loneliness
and technology to get things started. I'm joined out by
k x Gin, the head of health at Facebook. Ka x,
thank you for spending some time with us, so I'd
be doing my audience a disservice if I didn't start

with your backstory. You met Mark Zuckerberg on the first
day of class at Harvard. Talk about a life changing interaction. Yeah,
thanks um, thanks for having me and yeah I got
that was over at Kid to Go And I don't
think any of us could have predicted where are we
read today? And you were part of the team that

built the first version of news feed. So you've been
intimately involved with Facebook, you know, basically since the very beginning. Yeah,
that's right. I joined in two thousand six, two weeks
before we launched a news speed uh So it was
a very exciting and interesting time to join the company.
Uh sent a few years working on news Speed as
a software engineer, spent several years that adds and at

this point it will be fourteen years at Facebook next week, obviously,
when all of you have created over their Facebook has
changed the world. I can only imagine what it must
be like to have been a part of that from
the very beginning. Did you have any idea when you
were first putting this website together that it would evolve
into what it is today? I don't think, though. It's
kind of been being a journey, and I don't think

anyone in the early days could have predicted that. I
think I was one of the first ten or twenty
users of the site, and if you'd ask me then
that it would be something used all over the world,
I would not have told you. Well, I'll tell you
when I first long on in college, I can assure
you I didn't realize it becomes such a major part
of life all these years later. Let's talk about your

role as head of Health, which happened about a year
and a half ago. What was the original purpose for
this particular initiative over at Facebook. Yeah, thank you, it's
a great question. Um So, about two years ago actually,
after really seeing how people were already using Facebook, Instagram,
WhatsApp and Messenger for a lot of these health related

support needs, whether it's um patients connecting with each other
or um uh clinicians connecting with each other. Uh, we
at Facebook decided to create a dedicated team to better
support this area as part of our overall social impact work.
And so that was the time about the time when
I came up here to to leave this effort. And

I know blood donations were a big part of the
initial work that you were doing as the head of Health.
Talk a little bit about that and why that became
a focus. Yeah, it's it's a great question. Um So.
The unifying theme behind a lot of our work here
is helping bring people and organizations together in ways that
improve health. And one of the things we were seeing

was a lot of people already using Facebook and WhatsApp
to help build awareness of the need for blood donations,
and a lot of the blood organizations actually already using
UH these products to recruit donors, so we thought we
could better support this need by building a dedicated product
for blood donations, and we make it really easy for

people to sign up to volunteer to be notified when
there's needs locally nearby. UH and we worked really closely
with blood organizations around the world who are trying to
build a stable blood supply for folks, and UH they
on board to our tools and are able to notify
people who have signed up to come in and donate.
It went under needs. I'm joined by k x Gen,

the head of Health over at Facebook here on iHeart
Radio Communities before we get to COVID nineteen. Aside from
blood donations, were there other health initiatives that you were
actively involved in from the beginning as head of health. Yeah,
if it's been an early journey, and I think we're
still very early in our journey, but we we've been

doing a lot around our data for good efforts to UM.
Certainly that program has been around for a year or
two and has been a lot of these things have
been accelerated because of COVID nineteen, but you know, working
to provide public health experts with data and tools our
team works. I want to turn to the coronavirus now.

I'm sure this was something you didn't imagine being in
the middle of so soon as head of health at Facebook,
but here we are. How did this pandemic unfold for you?
And when did you and your team really start to
take notice and realize this was going to be your
main priority for the foreseeable future. Yeah, a great question,
and I don't think this is anyone anyway, anything anyone

really anticipated UH at the end of last year. For us,
our work really started. Our work around COVID really started
towards the end of January. UH. This was when we
started hearing from some of our partners like the w
h O that there was a growing potential for uh pandemic,
and so that's when we really started getting organized. We're

also a global company to a lot of our initial
response at the end of January was in Asia and
some of the regions that were originally affected, although obviously
at this point um we're we're working on this across
the world. There are a number of different initiatives related
to COVID nineteen. The Facebook is involved in one big issue.
You've been working to address this misinformation about the pandemic.

How does that process work and how big of an
undertaking is that? Yeah? Um, uh, you're absolutely right. That's
the huge part of our response is helping connect people
with credible information and support from trusted sources. UH. And
we work extremely closely with public health experts and organizations
for this, whether that's the w h O, the CDC,

or other individual experts. I think at this point we've
connected over two billion people worldwide resources from these authorities
through things like the COVID nineteen Information Center on Facebook,
which is designed to be the primary place to get
all authoritative information, as well as government healthlines and UH

other helplines on what Step and Messenger. It's also been
super inspiring for me to see people using our tools
to support each other. People have raised over a hundred
million dollars in COVID nineteen related fundraisers on Facebook, and
a lot of these are actually around supporting local communities.
For example, earlier in the pandemic, a couple of parents

in Vermont started a fundraisers and ended up raising thousands
of dollaries for their school sanitorial staff. And uh, you know,
there's a lot of really difficult things going on in
the world, but seeing, uh, seeing people really step up
and help each other has been incredibly inspiring. Facebook also
invested a hundred million dollars in the news industry. You're
looking to support fact checkers. That's obviously a big part

of combating misinformation, especially during the time of a public
health crisis. Talk about your relationship with different news organizations,
how you work with them, and how you decide whose
trustworthy for a mission like that. Yeah, I'm really glad
you asked that. Since January, we've taken pretty aggressive steps
to both limit the spread of misinformation as well as

connect people with reliable information. And I think these are
really important to uh uh take into account together, because
misinformation really strives in the absence of credible and trusted information.
Thence what everyone ultimately wants the resources to keep themselves
and their families safe. And so that's why we've been
investing so much in helping people connect to this information. Uh.

We are generally not the experts around health right, and
we shouldn't be. And this is also why it's really
important that we work with the experts themselves, both in
terms of helping feature and amplify their information as well
as working with them to help on the fact checking
side and determine what are the things that are true
and not true around here. And that kind of ties

in with you as well, because you have a computer
science background, not a medical background, but you are the
head of health for Facebook, and you're open about the
fact that you know you rely on experts and their
expertise to help guide you in your current role. Yeah,
that's right. UM, I think high with most things, but
definitely with health. UM. It really takes the whole community

to come together to address a lot of these challenges. Right.
If you're dealing with a health challenge, you end up
relying on your friends, your family, caregivers, UH, your care team,
you know, clations if you're fortunate up to have access
to care uh and UH you know, i roll is
not really to be the health expert. I ROLL is

to help connect people uh to these experts and really
took a part these experts in their work and I'm
premended to be grateful to be able to do that
every day. I'm joined by k XGen, the head of
health at Facebook here on I Heart Radio Communities. You've
also over at Facebook done a lot of support for
health and economic relief efforts. You've made donations to support

COVID nineteen relief efforts, including twenty five million dollars to
help out healthcare workers on the front line, which is
very important. Talk a little bit about those efforts and
some of the investments that have been made in small
businesses too. Thanks. That's that's a great question. I mean,
as you know, unfortunately, the effects of COVID have been
super broad, right, both the direct health effects and the

indirect effects around discussors going on, job losses and so on,
and uh, you know where we we don't have all
the solutions, but where we are definitely doing our part
to try to help here. Uh. And on this small
on SMB side, we've uh we were I think one
of the first companies to roll out a grand program

for some of the SMBs uh who might be affected,
and so that was the program we did earlier in
the pandemic. And more broadly, we've we've just been trying
to find ways to help across the board. Have you
found that Facebook has become a really a crucial tool
for a lot of small businesses that have had to
scale back with advertising or have had to get information

out to their customer base about changes they've made, you know,
restaurants switching to take out and delivery and all of that.
You know, It's been a while since I've worked on ads,
uh directly, but you know, speaking personally, I've been getting
a really great updates from my local grocery store on
Facebook of all places, and uh, you know, they were

running into shortages. Uh they were, you know, like not
always having things stucked, but they're they're now actually posting
every day about what's the reliable and what's that and uh,
you know, I'm tremendously grateful to the essential worker is
like like those that grocery stories, And I've been personally
surprised at how valuable their Facebook posts have been for
me and the other people at the community. Well, some

anecdotal evidence, but I think you could certainly apply that
more broadly because I've I've seen the same thing. I'm
joined by k x Gen, the head of health over
at Facebook. You're on iHeart Radio Communities. The final aspect
of Facebook's response to COVID nineteen is just trying to
keep people connected. Talk a little bit about how that
works and what the focus is there. Yeah, I think

this bands beyond just house right, that's fundamentally like what
the Facebook family a product really do. It's around helping
you keep connected with your friends and family. And so
earlier in the pandemic, we had to invest a lot
simply just to keep our services up and running, given
uh the increased demand we were seeing. It was I

think particularly challenging given that a lot of us were
unable to come to the office and I'll have to
work remotely. So uh we we you know, we weren't perfect. There,
there are a few hitches, but I think by and
large we were able to keep the services up and running,
which was great. Uh uh Yeah. And from a personal perspective,
I've been doing a lot of video called My parents

are older Americans who lived down the street, and we're
still trying to keep more distance from them than we
would otherwise. So I've been, you know, video calling them
every day and really grateful for all the tools that
are available. And last thing I want to touch on
World Mask Week. This is an initiative the Pandemic Action Network,
which you're connected to has really been working hard on

raising awareness for the effectiveness of mass in mitigating the
spread of the coronavirus. Talk about Facebook's involvement in that
initiative and why that's so important. Thanks, I appreciate you asking.
Um SO experts are pretty clear now that wearing a
mask is a simple stuff we can all take to
help reduce the spread of COVID nineteen, and our priority

here has really been to support these experts. Um And
I think one thing that was interesting for me to
learn from these soaps is that it's important wearing a
mask is important both to protect yourself but also to
protect other people, because it's possible that sometimes you might
be infectious and not know it. Uh. So we've been
um doing a lot to help build awareness of this

in partnership with these experts. Since early July, we put
some alerts at the top of Facebook and Instagram to
remind everyone to wear face coverings. We also have launched
some features like a customize little avatar that features mask
wearing that you can make is deer profile picture uh
and wear a mask hashtag. And so we're hopeful to
know more and hopeful to help build awarness here. And

for me personally, UM, wearing a mask is especially important
since my parents are older, are there in their seventies,
and I want to do my best to try to
keep them safe. I definitely took a little bit of
getting you to and but I've now found a cloth
math that's pretty well. Uh. And if my kids are
able to figure this out there too and for I'd

feel like I'd be able to figure it out as well.
K x Gen, the head of health at Facebook, we
really appreciate the time. Thank you so much for the
work you're doing over there, and thank you for joining
us here on I Hear Radio Communities. Thank you. Finally,
I'm joined by Dr Danielle Ramo, the senior director of
Research at Hope Lab, to talk about the impact of
the coronavirus on the mental health of young adults and

how that plays into the reopening of schools. Dr Raymo,
thank you for your time. Let's start with the work
that you do at Hope Lab. Sure, Ryan, happy to
be here, Thanks for having me. Hope while there's a
social innovation lab. We build behavior change tech to support
teen and young adult health and well being. We started
up and our legacy is in cancer survivorship. Our first

product was a video game that helps young people with
cancer take control over their illness by taking chemotherapy medication,
and we've been still involved with a population of young
people that has cancer. We made a chat bot to
support young people who were coming back into their lives
after they had undergone cancer treatment, and now we're also

working with other populations of young people. We've made an
app to support a nurse home visiting program called the
Nurse Family Partnership that is working nationwide to support first
time parents, and we're also working in three other areas
where we're addressing the mental health of lgbt Q plus teens.
Right now, we're also working in an area that I've

been working in for many years and my role as
a psychologist, including teen vaping, trying to figure out how
to help young people quit vathing through social media. And finally,
as you mentioned in your introduction, we're addressing the high
rate of loneliness among college students today with an app
called NOD. Before we get to the impact act of
this pandemic on the mental health of college aide students,

what were you seeing in terms of the connection between
technology and potential mental health issues among that demographic. Yeah,
so there were two really important trends around loneliness that
we're concerning to us at Hope Labs, who uses tech
to support teen health. The first is that young people

are the loneliest generation alive today. A lot of people
think that loneliness is an affliction among the elderly, and
while it is an issue among older adults, younger people,
including those of college age eighteen to twenty five or so,
are reporting loneliness at greater levels than even older adults.
And this was happening for COVID. This is partly because

loneliness is not about how many people are around us,
and of course at college before COVID, uh, we were
in a situation to be around a lot of people
in any given time. But lonely us instead is about
our understanding of where we are and where we want
to be, and there was a really big discrepancy among
young people in that place. So they came into college

often really having high hopes about meeting their best friends
for life and feeling that it was going to be
really easy to do so, and then often found that
it wasn't as easy as they expected. And we think
that really is contributing to the fact that many college
students were saying that we're lonely. So in the United States,
to give you a sense of that, a third of
college students reported feeling very lonely in the last month

and two thirds reported feeling very lonely in the last year.
And this was all before shelter and place orders happened
because of the pandemic in this race. I'm joined by
Dr Danielle Ramo, the senior director of Research at Hope
Lab here on iHeart Radio Communities. You know, some may
think that with all the technology available today, somebody ways
to connect with others that may alleviate loneliness, but it

sounds like in some circumstances it could be having the
opposite effect. Well, just like with any tool that is
as ubiquitous as technology is today, there are some positive
features and there are some negative features associated with technology.
There's no doubt that some of the ways that young

people engage with technology probably isn't helping that much right. Unfortunately,
social media often makes us feel bad after we use it,
and for those who are things like depression and anxiety already,
those feelings can be heightened, especially when interacting with UH
social media all day, every day, so I definitely don't

recommend that that happens. However, there are some really positive
ways to use technology. We believe in that quite strongly
at Hope Love, and we try to create tools that
support young people making positive, deep and meaningful connections. Now,
in the case of nod, the app we've made to
address the high rate of loneliness, we're asking young people

to use technology to learn more about how to connect
both digitally and in the real world with other people,
and then get off their devices and go make those connections. Now,
we actually offer support it to low hols because we
recognize that for college students this fall, there are of
different scenarios. Some people will be entirely virtual, and the

way that they're able to make new connections is only
going to be through things like Virtual Meanings where all
of their classes will be online. And in those cases,
we offer tips to support young people trying to get
in there and meet new people, as well as go
deeper with the friends that they may already have connected

with through college. And we also encourage those students who
are able to be UH in person through classes to
use skills to make more connections as well. So we're
trying to meet the needs of a bunch of different
scenarios in this unprecedented kind of crazy year. Have you
found that because this younger generation is online so much,

they're spending so much time on devices, has that changed
how they interact with each other or with those of
a different age group. Yeah, So this generation is this
think from others, this younger generation of teens and young
adults today, because they were entirely born into the age
of social media and digital connections have been part of

their reality from the time they were quite young, and
that means that the way they interact in the real
world might be a little different than those of us
who grew up without technology is an option. Now, that
doesn't mean that they're necessarily worse at making connections, but
it's just that when you grow up where digital connections

are so easy and so quick and it's so uh
simple to kind of push that light button and get
and give feedback all day long and things like text
messages and social media, that the way that we interact
in the real world when it's different, sometimes our expect
castins might be a little bit different from that, and
uh it might be hard to process the feelings that

come when things don't necessarily go our way. So those
are some of the skills that we believe are particularly
important to boost in young people today, help give them
strategies to meet people, go deeper and even do so
digitally in addition to in the real world, as well
as process the feelings when things aren't so great. I'm

joined by Dr Daniel Ramo, the senior director of Research
at Hope lamp here on I hear radio communities. Aside
from Generation Z feeling lonely, are there any other behavioral
challenges that group is experiencing more so than previous generations. Well,
there are a lot of what we call correlates of loneliness,
things that are related to loneliness that we know are

heightened in this generation and frankly are increasing over time.
And this really is concerning. So these are things like uh,
feelings of or experiencing clinical depression or anxiety. And one
thing that really concerns me as a clinical psychologist who

works in tech and mental health, is that the folks
who are saying that they're very longly and those who
are experiencing symptoms of depression anxiety, and having other kinds
of problems that go along with those things like poor sleep, Uh,
maybe not being as physically active, or having poor eating
and other health behaviors. Folks who have those clusters of

problems are more likely to have negative experiences when they
interact on tech. So it's harder to have technology be
a supportive, safe and comfortable place if we're already really
emotionally vulnerable. So we really believe in using tech knowledgy
to kind of build up and boost the way that

we process our interaccents so that we can support those
folks who are particularly at risk for things like depression, anxiety,
poor sleep, and other things. Back in April, as the
shutdown was under way, you clearly knew that loneliness was
going to be a major problem, especially among young adults,

and you put together a list of a few tips
to help them get through that period of social isolation.
Tell us about that advice. Sure, so, we we were
making a tool to support the high rate of loneliness
and college students, and we started up by promoting that
people get off their phones and get out there in

the real world. So, uh, one strategy that can't continue
to happen, whether college classes are in person or not.
Is to not be afraid to try something new, So
something that you haven't necessarily wanted to do before, but
are open to and have an open frame. So this

could be anything from uh, seeing someone that you know
you've seen in class. You think this could be a
connection that would be worthwhile. But before this you might
not have been willing to jump out there, take the
risk and stay hello. To be open to doing that,
especially this year, this is such a crazy time that, uh,

we think risks are really going to pay off quite
a bit more than in other times. And frankly, what
do we have to lose? Right, So I really encourage
people to have an open mind and to take risks
more than they ever had before. We also encourage people
not to blame themselves if things don't go wrong. So

if things don't go right, So if you do try
to reach out to someone, stay hello, and because you're
wearing a mask, they can't hear what you're saying, and
they keep their eyes down on their phone and they
don't connect with you, really notice your reaction to that,
and try not to blame yourself. It could be that
they just didn't hear you, right, We also encourage parents

to talk to teens about what their social world is
going to look like in college this year. So that
could mean encouraging them to get out there on campus
in a safe way, in a socially distanced way, wearing
a mask, or if they're online and virtual. Try to
encourage your children who are home doing their college classes

to take those extra few minutes reach out to someone
who may have been in their class and ask for
a study date. Maybe there's someone who is in a
breakout room in a class who seemed interesting or know
something that you want to learn about. Don't be afraid
to jump in there and do that this fault. I'm
joined by Dr Daniel Ramo, the senior director of Research

at Hope Lab. For parents that are listening, I'm sure
there's a lot of concern about the loneliness factor, but
also about the recklessness that we can sometimes see in
college aide students, and recklessness right now during a public
health crisis can come with a very heavy price. How
do they have that conversation about balancing some kind of
normalcy with staying safe. It can be really hard to

balance those two things. Brian and I recommend that parents
really think about technology as an opportunity during this time.
It's really easy to frame technology as the enemy, but
because it is fostering social connection for some people in
the only way they are able to do so, it

really there are ways to support teens and young adults
using technology for good, and I think parents have to
support those ways. So, for example, UM I recommend that
parents help use technology to bring friends together for deep
and meaningful connections. So these are things like encourage your

children to invite a friend to play video games together
rather than playing in an isolated way. Or if you're
noticing that your sons or daughters are on social media
a lot, encourage them to reach out in another way
that allows for more deep connection, like actually making a
phone call or having a a call that allows us
few friends to come together. Uh. There are some real

healthy ways to use social media as well. I ran
a program of research at my lab at u SEE
San Francisco and the Department of Psychiatry that showed we
could help young people quit smoking, reduce vaping, and reduce
heavy drinking directly through social media. So there are opportunities
for young people to enroll in studies that use social

media for good and uh, the other piece that I
can't help but mention is that video games get vitified,
vilified often for being dangerous places and there are some risks,
but so show video games supported in a limited way
can be a lifeline, uh, socially for young people right now.

So I encourage parents not to be too scared about
allowing their teens to have connections via video games and
uh things like chatting and phone calls. And finally, where
can people find out more about Hope Lab and the
research that you've conducted. Sure, listeners can go directly to

helpe lab dot org to find out more about the
tools that we create to support teen health and well
being and to get involved with us. We invite young
people to co create all of the tools that we make.
They are a very important voice in the creation process.
And then to find out more about our NOD app
that supporting social connections and college listeners can go to

hey nod dot com. And if you're interested in bringing
NOD to your college campus as a student or administrator,
you can reach out to us on haynd dot com.
Dr Danielle Ramo, the senior director of Research at Hope Lab.
Dr Ramo, thank you for joining us and sharing your expertise.
We really appreciate it. Thank you so much. As we
wrap things up, I want to offer a big thanks

to all of our guests, and of course to all
of you for listening. If you want to hear previous
episodes of this show, we're on your iHeart Radio app.
Just search for iHeart Radio Communities, and you can find
me on social media at Ryan E. Gorman. We'll be back,
same time, same place, next weekend. Stay safe,
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