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Combating Digital Health Inequalities in the Time of COVID

  1. Libraries as a power of change Theme: Empowering communities Combating digital health inequalities in the time of COVID Bob Gann Digital Health Literacy Advisor Health Education England & CILIP United Kingdom @Bob_Gann
  2. When we are online we can… • Shop for food and essential supplies • Keep in touch with friends and family • Work from home • Take part in online classes • Apply for benefits and financial support • Manage our own health • Access reliable health information
  3. 40% of the world is not online 4.5 billion people are active internet users 4 billion unique mobile users But 40% of the world is not online Global digital population 2020. Statista Mozilla Internet Health Report 2019
  4. COVID-19 has exposed the digital divide Over 87% in developed world are online, 47% in developing nations, and only 19% in least developed nations (UNESCO, 2019)
  5. Digital exclusion in the UK 8% of the population are not online at all 22% of population of the UK do not have essential digital skills needed for everyday life Those who are digitally excluded are more likely to be older, lower income, less educated, homeless, refugees UK Consumer Digital Index
  6. Age and gender are major determinants of digital exclusion In Lebanon nearly all young people (18-29) use the internet frequently, but only half of older people (over 60). Older people are the major users of healthcare services. The Arab World’s Digital Divide Sept 2020
  7. Age and gender are major determinants of digital exclusion Globally, far fewer women than men are online. Women are the informal gatekeepers to family health. Men are 21% more likely to be online than women, rising to 52% more likely in the world’s least developed countries. (The gender gap in internet access. World Wide Web Foundation, March 2020)
  8. Why are people digitally excluded? • Access (including broadband connectivity & affordability) • Skills (both basic digital skills and information literacy) • Communication (language, disabilities) • Lack of interest, trust & motivation
  9. Three ways to combat digital health inequalities 1. Fight misinformation through access to high quality knowledge 2. Improve digital literacy skills 3. Provide accessible and empowering digital technologies
  10. 1. Fight misinformation through access to high quality knowledge
  11. Health information is increasingly digital • Over 80% of internet users have searched for health information (Amante, 2015) • One in seven Google searches are for health information – a billion searches a day (Google Health Vice President David Feinberg 2019) • There are over 300,000 health related apps (Pohl, 2017)
  12. Tackling fake news and misinformation
  13. Trusted sources for quality health information WHO Myth busters IFLA tips on fake news UNHCR information for refugees
  14. Trusted source: NHS website
  15. 2. Improve digital literacy skills
  16. Online Centres in UK • 5000 online centres in local community settings • Half of these are libraries • Provide safe, supported environments where people can access technology and learn digital skills
  17. Public libraries: Universal Health Offer • Expert staff • Trusted community spaces • Health information resources • Signposting • Creative and social activities • Assisted digital access
  18. Digital skills training Building basic digital skills & digital health literacy For citizens… …and for digital champions
  19. Being online, poverty and human rights “Overall roll out of broadband Internet in the UK may be high but many poorer and more vulnerable households are offline”. “Digital assistance has been outsourced to public libraries and civil society organisations, at a time when budgets have been severely cut”. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights 2019
  20. 3. Provide accessible and empowering digital technologies Video consultations, digital assistants, virtual reality
  21. Access to safe remote care • During COVID most health consultations done remotely • Patients spared cost, stress, time, inconvenience and risk of infection • Those without technology unable to take up • Digital devices provided to care homes for residents to access video consultations
  22. Voice activated digital assistants • People who lack digital skills or have sight or dexterity problems can use voice recognition • Loan schemes for voice activated devices including Amazon Echo (Alexa) & Google Home • Set up spoken reminders for medication, appointments etc • Access websites, apps and social communication • NHS website content available via Alexa
  23. Virtual reality helping people connect with a positive world • Digital Heroes programme in Wales • Intergenerational mentoring between schoolchildren & care home residents • Reduction in anti-psychotic medication and falls • Ambulance call-outs reduced by 28% Digital Communities Wales
  24. Libraries combating digital health inequalities • Distributing digital devices and data SIMS to those most in need • Training digital champions in communities via video conferencing • Signposting to digital tools and resources including free online training • Facilitating adoption of National Health Service self management tools and apps • Mapping availability of free public wi-fi • Digital inclusion toolkit
  25. Thank you More information: Gann, B. (2019) Transforming lives: combating digital health inequality IFLA Journal 45(3): 189-97 3_2019.pdf Davies AR, Honeyman M, Gann B. (2021) Addressing the digital inverse care law in the time of COVID-19: potential for digital technology to exacerbate or mitigate health inequalities. Journal of Medical Internet Research 23(3) Email: Twitter: Bob_Gann