“Technology has made us more aware of social issues as it makes the information so much easier to obtain and talk about,” Diana Nava, a first-year majoring in political science, said. “It is legitimately at our fingertips.”
Chen said that as a part of the app's future development, they plan to grow the scope of the app, including its accessibility for Android users and non-English speakers.
“We are going to keep responding to the content needs of our users as they grow with us,” Chen said. “Users are indicating and asking for ways to build skills. We potentially want to build features into the app that will build communication skills in particular.”
Chen and Leos initially met as doctoral fellows at Gillings, where they shared the same interests in behavioral health topics and outcomes. Chen graduated in May and Leos is set to finish this winter.
“Gillings did a really nice job encouraging me as a researcher and a student to collaborate with people outside of the public health world,” Chen said. “I felt a lot of support from faculty members and mentors to explore the business side of the things.”
"Real Talk" initially launched in 2017 as a resource for teenagers to access sexual health information. After a major update last fall, the app has expanded to include many social-based topics, such as bullying, sexual assault and LGBTQ+ issues.
“We realized that providing access to sexual health information was really important and was a big need, especially in places where teens felt like they couldn’t have these conversations with adults,” Leos said. “But sexual health was just one example of lots of topics that fall into the category of being awkward or taboo or sensitive that teens wanted to learn about.”
Leos said she hopes to work at "Real Talk" full-time at the start of next year.
She said she encourages students with innovative ideas to explore them.
“If you have an idea, don’t disqualify yourself before testing it, talking to people or exploring it more,” Leos said. “So often, a lot of people have great ideas for important solutions for important problems, but it feels really daunting and scary. Be willing to talk to other peers, teachers or others about exploring your ideas.”