The Tinder Foundation, a charity that aims to make good things happen through digital technology, celebrated the results of their report at the House of Lords last week.
The programme has targeted some of the hardest to reach communities. Credit: Fotolia
Joined members of the UK online centres network it manages, and representatives of NHS England, the Widening Digital Participation addresses the challenges of reducing health inequalities by engaging with groups at risk of poor health and digital inclusion.
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Since 2013, the report revealed more than 200,000 people have been trained to use the internet, which has led to over half feeling more confident to manage their health. In addition, 21 per cent of those making fewer calls or visits to their GP and 6 per cent making fewer trips to A&E.
Speaking at the launch last week, Helen Milner, CEO of Tinder Foundation said: “We have 12.6 million people in this country who lack the basic functional digital literacy to take part in today’s society.
“Those people are excluded, some of them by age, but others because of poverty, poor educational attainment and unemployment and those deep seated social inequalities that they’re experiencing in their local communities.”
“We know in places like Glasgow and Birmingham, people living in two different wards, political wards, can have a life expectancy difference of about 10 years and that’s shocking. Of course, we’re all here because we love digital and we know that digital can drive change, drive achievement, and can bring down those inequalities. That’s what the Widening Digital Participation programme has been about.
“Now we that we know health inequality, social inequality and digital inequality all go hand in hand, we can keep working together on this programme and others to make sure we can provide and we can build as equal a nation as we can and end digital exclusion once and for all.”
The programme has targeted some of the hardest to reach communities, with 82 per cent of those trained experiencing at least one form of social exclusion including unemployment, disability and homelessness.
This follows the recommendation made by Martha Lane Fox in December 2015, to increase take-up of internet enabled services in health and care by designing digital tools and training programmes to ‘reach the ‘furthest first.’
Tinder Foundation chairman Lord Jim Knight explained why the project had been such a success in reaching thousands of vulnerable people
He said: “The ability to help patients take more responsibility for their own health, to empower them to deal with their lifestyle that impacts on their health through digital, as well as accessing things directly like prescriptions, is a hugely important and more efficient service in terms of equality of patient delivery but also in terms of the taxpayer getting more in value for money.”
“Tinder Foundation have been really great delivery partners, they’ve had great links into local communities, they’ve been able to mobilise that for us and they’ve been real enthusiasts. The programme just makes absolute sense.
“On the one hand we want people to get online for their health, and on the other hand the people that most need to do that are the least likely to be online, older people particularly, but also those with disabilities and poor people so it’s kind of a no brainer that if we’re going to have a digital revolution in health, we need to support those people.”
In addition, 59 per cent of learners report feeling more confident to use online tools to manage their health, 65 per cent feel more informed and 52 per cent say they feel less lonely with 62 per cent saying they feel happier as a result of social contact.
Searching online for symptoms and medications advice and using digital health tools such as apps help patients to take a more active role in monitoring and self-managing their condition.
Nashon Brown, a volunteer at North Somerset Training, which delivers courses to the homeless and supports those with learning difficulties, recalled how the programme had been essential to improving his self-confidence.
He said: “It’s a brilliant thing they are doing. I’m not yet a digital whizz, but I’m constantly learning and getting better. I now have the confidence to open up a laptop or PC and search for websites. I think it’s great.”