Diving deeper into the Web: what are the risks?

The internet as we know it, with browsers and social media platforms, is changing into another digital ecosystem, known among tech enthusiasts as Web 3.0. Digital companies are already investing in new technologies that will offer people the opportunity to dive into the so-called metaverse – a deep augmented virtual reality; a mixture of social media and a massive online video game.

“This is seen as a challenge from the perspective of health. Spending more time online connected to the metaverse with gadgets may reduce levels of physical activity and give advertisers many more ways to promote unhealthy products such as junk food, tobacco or alcohol,” explained Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Acting Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office).

At these early stages when stakeholders are still developing this space, public health experts and policy-makers should clearly define and integrate health promotion strategies into digital ecosystems.

Recently WHO organized a series of events and published a factsheet titled “Tackling Noncommunicable Diseases with Digital Solutions” that provides some examples of digital health approaches used by WHO’s NCD Office.

Creating a healthier metaverse

Digital advertising is a worldwide business worth billions of US dollars. Social media have become a major opportunity to promote unhealthy products online because in many countries of the Region this territory is a legal grey zone with no strict rules for advertising.

In addition, digital formats can effectively disguise advertisements of tobacco products, unhealthy foods or alcoholic beverages as user-generated posts, memes, news articles or entertainment formats.

“For greater effect, governments and policy-makers need to consolidate their voices around the requests for the main online platforms that have a massive impact on people’s online lives. The platforms can behave differently across all different health topics, to create a healthier ecosystem in the WHO European Region and far beyond”, said Tobin Ireland, Special Industry Advisor to WHO/Europe during the Digital4NCD conference held in Moscow in December.

Healthy metaverse: how can we promote h…