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Devon Haag Recognized for Digital Health Work at the BCCDC

Devon Haag, Digital Public Health Program Manager at the BCCDC, sat down to discuss winning a Women in Digital Health award last year, what she is passionate about, and what has kept her working in public health for the past 18 years.
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Tina Costa from Provincial Virtual Health presents a gift to Devon Haag at BCCDC.​

As health care embraces more digital tools and services, there is an opportunity to improve health outcomes especially for those who experience stigma and marginalization, says the BC Centre for Disease Control’s Devon Haag, who was recently named a recipient of the Women in Digital Health Award

The award is given out by Digital Health Canada every year to 10 women across Canada who show exemplary dedication to providing digital health access and support. Devon, who leads a Digital Public Health Program, was nominated by her colleagues at BCCDC and Provincial Virtual Health

“This is a well-deserved award for Devon. For several years she has modelled the PHSA value of innovation and made significant contributions to the advancement of digital and virtual health at PHSA – and the BC health sector. Through her leadership, she is contributing to the transformation of our health system and how we use technology to improve the health and wellness of British Columbians. I am thrilled to see her receive national recognition as a leader in digital health.”  - Shannon Malovec, Executive Vice President, Provincial Digital Health and Information Services

Devon didn’t start out in Public Health. In fact, prior to joining the BCCDC 18 years ago, she was a wildlife biologist specializing in songbirds. Having just wrapped up a research grant at the University of British Columbia, Devon found herself pivoting into health care. Her journey has become one of ‘right place, right time, right people’. 

Devon sat down for an interview to share her thoughts on this award, the program she was nominated for, the challenges and successes of digital health, and what’s kept her a the BCCDC for nearly 20 years. 

What do you think the impact of a digital health service like the BCCDC’s online anonymous STI testing service GetCheckedOnline is for people accessing care?

GetCheckedOnline is a first of its kind service that allows people to fill out a form online and go to a participating lab to have routine Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing done quickly and without having to make an appointment with a health care provider or answer potentially invasive questions. 

So, I would say some of the biggest impacts of GetCheckedOnline is ease of testing, and access. With clinic closures or folx (a way of saying folks that intentionally shows inclusivity of gender diverse people) not having a family health care provider, it means they can still get regular testing without having to find a walk-in. Or for folx with concerns about judgment or stigma, gender diverse people avoiding being deadnamed (use of the legal name assigned at birth that does not align with who a person is)​ or misgendered, GetCheckedOnline is really focused on inclusivity and removal of barriers. 

Being able to select your name, pronouns, etc., in GetCheckedOnline, and then get tested without having to go through a family doctor or worry about the lab form having information on it that doesn’t align with your identity really helps remove barriers for people. 

What challenges do you see in the digital health space?   

I think there are several challenges, internet access and ability to navigate services are definitely a couple of the larger ones. Not everyone can access the internet or knows how to access digital information. Internet access really is a health need, particularly in rural areas or for people who can’t get to an in-person appointment. Most things are digital now which breaks down barriers for many people, but for some, navigating digital processes is a barrier, and something we have to consider in digital health. 

This award highlights a few of your achievements in connection with digital health. What are you most proud of?

When I started in Public Health, my education, training and skills weren’t in this area, so it was a learning curve to apply those skills in a new way, and to learn the ins and outs of public health. Looking at how far I have come, what I have learned and how I have grown, I am proud of that. 

I am also passionate about meeting people where they are at. I want people who experience stigma and marginalization to have better access to tools and support through the work we do and services we provide. This is why I enjoy working in digital health. Improving access for people helps bridge gaps and make things more accessible, and I am really proud that I get to do that work.  

In addition to your role in digital health, you are also a member of BCCDC’s Anti-Racism Working Group. Can you tell me about your work with the group and what it means to you?

I was one of the early joiners, back in the fall of 2020, and it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my time here. This work is one of the big reasons why I am still with the BCCDC. 

Bringing my personal journey on anti-racism and reconciliation into my work, has been something I am passionate about and proud to share with others. I know there is still so much work we have to do but I have seen the culture start to shift both in our leadership and the willingness of staff to volunteer their time, to participate and to bring forward ideas. It is incredibly rewarding to see how the work of the Anti-Racism Working Group is having an impact on the organization and the people who work here. 

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