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social determinants of health
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Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties
In a new report, published in partnership with the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI), the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative examines the link between high-speed Internet infrastructure, access to healthcare, and the economic implications involved.
The report –“Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties” has particular relevance for those living in rural broadband deserts as it details how universal, affordable, broadband infrastructure would return $43 million per year using telehealth across 10 counties in the Black Belt of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Read Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties [pdf].
It explains how robust broadband infrastructure could pay for itself in short order and open up untold access to healthcare, educational opportunities, economic development, community engagement, and other benefits along the way. This issue is particularly relevant today, because the BEAD program represents a once-in-a-generation investment in broadband infrastructure, larger than any other federal grant program many times over. While it will solve the issue of access to infrastructure for most rural households, we have significant concerns about affordability - BEAD will lead to new connections, but states have wide latitude as to which ISPs get those funds to build new connections. The national monopolies have a long history of charging more to exactly the communities that can’t pay as much, leaving many households out. The report argues that electric cooperatives offer better and more locally accountable paths to universal, affordable service.
Drawing on academic scholarship and existing telehealth programs at hospitals around the country, the report focuses on an assortment of chronic health ailments plaguing those counties, such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease (including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, heart disease, heart failure, cancer, obesity, and mental health and then demonstrates the benefits that could come from effective telehealth interventions for each
A recently announced $610,000 grant award from the Tennessee Valley Authority to a partnership in Chattanooga, Tennessee will fund a pilot project to fund a set of holistic interventions in the Orchard Knob neighborhood to create healthier, more cost-efficient, better-connected homes for 1,000 residents.
The initiative, driven by a coalition made up of the Enterprise Center, EPB Fiber, Parkridge Health System, Habitat for Humanity, Tech Goes Home, and the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, aims to tackling an array of social determinants of health all at once. From The Chattanoogan:
Together, the partners plan to simultaneously invest in infrastructure and test new strategies for improving social determinants of health and quality of life of residents within a historically underserved neighborhood. Ultimately, the program in Orchard Knob will serve as a model for other communities across the Tennessee Valley.
It's happening as a result of funds contributed by the TVA's Connected Communities initiative, which aims to help "communities within the Valley leverage tech- and data-driven solutions to improve residents’ lives, deliver environmental benefits and scale economic opportunities." So far, these include projects like outfitting the Cheatham County School District with a solar array and battery backup, technology upgrades at more than a dozen Knoxville Recreation Centers, and improved connectivity at public housing sites in Murfreesboro.