Communications technology-enabled solutions that can play an important role in the transformation of healthcare. Media coverage of health issues. And the impact of various media on health.
Health and Media
When the pandemic hit American shores this past spring and cities around the country began to practice social distancing procedures, Rhode Island-based nonprofit One Neighborhood Builders (ONB) Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins quickly realized that many of those in her community were going to be hit hard. As spring turned to summer, this proved especially to be the case in the Olneyville neighborhood in west-central Providence, where Covid-19 cases surged among low-income residents with fewer options to get online to work, visit the doctor, and shop for groceries.
For all that has changed since the Benton Institute released Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s, this goal remains paramount. In October 2019, we said that connecting our entire nation through High-Performance Broadband would bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, and personal benefits. We said that open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for—and achieving—the American Dream.
USDA Invests $72 Million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Infrastructure in 40 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
The United States Department of Agriculture is investing $72 million in grants to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. These investments will benefit more than 12 million rural residents. USDA is funding 116 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.
House Democrats unvieled an updated version of the Heroes Act as a way to revitalize stalled talks over another COVID-19 pandemic relief measure. The $2.2 trillion bill would provide:
Lack of good broadband access is a strong predictor of childhood poverty. That’s the finding of Broadband Communities’ recent analysis combining county-level broadband data it has collected since 2010 with comprehensive, county-level poverty data compiled by the nonprofit organization Save the Children. We looked at overall poverty rankings, and, with sensitivities heightened because of the current need for distance learning, we also analyzed high school graduation patterns.
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released the Rural Action Plan, the first HHS-wide assessment of rural healthcare efforts in more than 18 years and the product of HHS’s Rural Task Force, a group of experts and leaders across the department first put together by Secretary Alex Azar in 2019. The plan lays out a four-point strategy to transform rural health and human services, with a number of actions that can be launched within weeks or months. Leveraging tech and innovation was one of the strategies, which includes:
Too many view protective measures as all or nothing: Either we do everything, or we might as well do none. That’s wrong. Instead, we need to see that all our behavior adds up. Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. Each time we wear a mask, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we socialize outside instead of inside, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we stay six feet away instead of sitting closer together, we’re throwing some safety on the pile.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is pushing Congress to make “more funding available for connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic — including at least $430 million in funding for the highly successful but underfunded COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” a spokesperson said, noting that the FCC has conveyed these requests for months. Congress in March slated $200 million for the Covid-19 Telehealth Program, and the FCC has since awarded that cash to subsidize connectivity for 539 health care entities across the country.
Telemedicine has proved effective during the pandemic, keeping people with chronic health conditions away from crowds and allowing more one-on-one time between patients and caregivers, according to health professionals. But West Virginia has a connectivity problem. Without sufficient internet access, drastic health disparities will widen between the state’s most impoverished and vulnerable communities and wealthier places, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, West Virginia’s chief health officer from 2015 to 2018. It’s not just telehealth that requires sufficient broadband.
Our nation’s health depends on immediate action to ensure that Americans urged to stay home can do so. Households that otherwise cannot afford it must receive access to broadband internet and unlimited telephone use. The Senate will very soon consider a coronavirus stimulus package: it must include an emergency communications benefit. The Senate should act to offer low-income households a $50 monthly benefit to obtain faster speed broadband and unlimited talk and text for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.