The Alliance for Healthier Communities defines health equity as an ideal state where everyone has opportunities to achieve their best health potential. There are many contributors to health equity, frequently referred to as the determinants of health. Among them are social and financial status, environment, educational attainment, and experiences of marginalization related to race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, lack of housing or experiences with mental health and addictions. Over the past decade, the growth of virtual tools, smartphone usage, and advances in information technology have made access to and comfort with digitally delivered content and programs another key determinant of health. Such technology and the multi-channel, interactive programming it can provide, is increasingly necessary for access to ways of connecting to community, health information, social supports, and clinical care. Access to digital and virtual tools and skills are determinants of health and must be universally recognized as such by policymakers, health planners and providers alike. Digital access and the skills to use digital and virtual tools must be accepted as determinants of health.
We recognize that without digital equity, the growing reliance on technology as a portal for access to services and programs, amplified by the necessities of the pandemic, would create barriers to participation and access through digital pathways. This is not a problem that can be easily addressed with more devices or better Wi-Fi access, nor with expanded broadband availability in people’s homes. Addressing immediate needs like these is important, but there are also many other considerations, such as the availability of electricity to charge devices and the knowledge of how to use these digital health solutions meaningfully to name but two. To help member centres develop and deploy their own digital equity strategy, the Alliance launched the Digital Equity Resources Package. The Digital Equity Resource Package is a suite of tools developed by a team of Alliance staff and staff from Alliance member agencies. It was built through consultation with people from across our sector, and it incorporates learnings from the UK’s National Health Service and from digital equity coalition groups in Charlotte, Seattle, Boston, Vancouver, and Toronto. It consists of the following elements:
- The Digital Equity Examples Diary (DEED) is a living document where the Alliance and our members will share our digital equity journeys and learn from one another. It includes a section for member entries, where members can document their digital equity initiatives, as well as sections on Alliance advocacy, digital equity resources, and public policy documents.
- The Alliance Digital Equity Strategy is an introductory document that outlines the digital divide and the collective impact approach we are proposing to help close it.
- The Digital Equity Playbook outlines 15 actions your organization and partners can take together to advance digital equity in your region or community. This document will be expanded with more actions based on our members’ learnings.