Mar 19, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Snapchat expedites wellness push in response to virus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Snapchat will launch a new health and wellness initiative ahead of schedule Thursday in order to address its users' growing anxiety about the coronavirus. Snapchat will also introduce new features and content to help educate users about safety measures and available resources.

Why it matters: Millennials and Gen Z, the main demographics that use Snapchat, are being criticized by health authorities for not taking the virus seriously, since early health reports showed that it was less lethal for young people.

Details: Snapchat will launch its previously-teased "Here For You" tool within its search bar that surfaces content from experts when Snapchatters search for mental health, anxiety, depression, suicide, and related topics.

  • The tool will include a separate search function that surfaces content on anxiety specifically related to coronavirus that's being produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). the Crisis Text Line support network, the Ad Council and the National Health Service (NHS).
  • According to the new Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, three-quarters (75%) of millennials ages 18-29 say they are somewhat or extremely worried about the outbreak.

Snapchat will also introduce a set of new creative tools that will help users share factual information about the coronavirus epidemic with each other.

  • One tool which recently launched is a nationwide Snapchat Filter that includes advice sourced from the World Health Organization on how to stay safe.

Snapchat is working with dozens of partners to surface and curate credible information about the virus.

  • A Snapchat spokesperson says it's working with WHO to develop custom content to answer questions from Snapchat users about the virus.
  • Snapchat is also working with nearly 40 media partners globally via its content arm, Discover, to elevate vetted information about the virus.

The big picture: Officials say that millennials aren't doing enough to stop the spread of the virus, which is why Snapchat feels it has a unique role to play in elevating important information about the importance of things like social distancing.

  • "They are the core group that will stop this virus.," said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, at a briefing Wednesday. "They intuitively know how to contact each others without being in large social gatherings," she said, referring to millennials' smartphone skills.
  • She also noted that there may be a disproportional number of infections among millennials, who could spread the disease to other, more vulnerable, generations.

What's next: The new coronavirus tools will be available to Snapchat users early next week. The mental health and wellness tools will be available globally Thursday.

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