Meet Dr. Jessica Jackson, a key member of Modern Health's Clinical Strategy and Research Team. Dr. Jackson specializes in inclusion and equity in mental health accessibility, working cross-functionally to ask hard questions about how the platform is built and who it is built for.
“When you build something, it doesn't help if no one is using it. You have to be able to think about how to get people involved,” says Dr. Jessica Jackson, a clinical strategy manager with Modern Health’s Clinical Strategy and Research (CS&R) team. Dr. Jackson specializes in inclusion and equity in mental health accessibility, working cross-functionally to ask hard questions about how the platform is built and who it is built for.
As Chair of the American Psychological Association (APA) Advisory Committee for Mental Health Technology and recent recipient of the Therapists in Tech 2022 Trailblazer in Tech Award, Dr. Jackson is a celebrated expert when it comes to exploring how mental health technology can be leveraged for more audience members than traditional treatment methods.
“We have the opportunity in tech to build something that doesn't necessarily need adaptations and modifications,” she says. “Most mental health interventions were created for a very narrow subset of the population. So we end up doing a lot of individual adaptations and modifications. In tech, you have the opportunity to put all of that into what you're building as you're building it. The people coming after us 20 and 30 years from now do not have to think about how to individually modify and adapt. It was built for everyone.”
Dr. Jackson came to Modern Health after a particularly challenging few years working in healthcare systems. She found that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic amid massive national protests for civil rights, her experience as a person of color and provider was vastly different from her white colleagues. After talking with other fellow providers of color, Dr. Jackson and Dr. Keri Kirk realized there was little research or understanding on how times of increased racial tension impacted providers of color and their levels of burnout. Dr. Jackson, Dr. Knott, and Dr. Kirk distributed surveys to collect data at their respective universities.
A short hiatus for life events meant that when it came time to write the paper, Dr. Jackson had moved to Modern Health, where she found support from her new employer to do so. The research support and collaboration within the CS&R is a highlight of her work at Modern Health.
“I am very lucky to have a great research team led by Dr. Castro Sweet, who is also very much interested in mental health equity,” says Dr. Jackson. “We partner on papers to look at how our product and our services are making mental health services more accessible. Are they improving outcomes for all populations—not just certain populations?” She points to a recent presentation by Dr. Castro Sweet for the Society of Behavioral Medicine exploring digital equity within Modern Health products and the accompanying paper that was recently submitted on the same topic.
Going forward, Dr. Jackson hopes to continue providing education on improving provider support. “We don't protect providers like they are a finite resource,” she says, comparing mental health providers to diamonds—they both require time and resources for their creation and cultivation, but value is only placed on one and not the other. Despite their human limitations and personal emotional well-being, mental health providers are often expected to see as many clients as there are working hours in a day—an expectation Dr. Jackson attributes to narrow understandings of mental health support and treatment.
“We don't say, ‘I wanna see a cardiologist simply because I wanna get my heart checked out.’ You need a referral. There needs to be a specific reason,” says Dr. Jackson, comparing the expectations for providers in different fields to those placed on mental healthcare professionals. “That’s not realistic. I think that lends to the stratified care model. We need to think about other resources, because if providers leave because they're burned out, you will have more of a shortage—more of a crisis—than you currently do.”
Modern Health’s stratified-care model allows individuals to seek various levels of support that may better suit where they are in their mental health journey. Not everyone needs, or wants, clinical 1:1 therapy—they may need self-guided resources on overall well-being, or a group support environment, or a coach to check in with regularly. By offering these different pathways to care, Dr. Jackson sees Modern Health creating something that feels catered to the individual rather than the singular type of person mental health has traditionally been created for.
“Therapy used to be way more cost prohibitive than it is now. There were only certain people who were doing it so social identities weren’t taken into account. It was one size fits all,” says Dr. Jackson. “And so as a shift, the field has changed. We have the ability to shift it even further, leveraging technology to be able to build things that people say, ‘Yes, they're thinking about me.’”
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