Thirty-two BC ACORN members have contributed to important research exploring the health-related uses and benefits of internet access.
The "Digital Equity and Health" report found that many participants use the internet for specific health reasons, including:
- In place of professional medical services, such as physiotherapy;
- To supplement professional medical advice;
- To support recovery from illness at home. For example, to check dietary requirements.
- To book appointments online, for example, blood tests.
Internet access can promote the social determinants of health. For example, participants reported using the internet to apply for jobs, look for housing, and manage their budget for groceries. Social connections are also maintained online. Although approximately one-third of people use the internet for health or medical purposes, without internet access many British Columbians are excluded from the digital economy. Participants reported two main barriers to internet access: high cost and lack of digital literacy skills. Low-income earners are disproportionately impacted by expensive internet costs as they either have to forgo the opportunities that internet access provides, or make the difficult decision to cut back on other basic necessities to stay connected.
Recently, the Federal Government announced their "Connecting Families" program, which will provide $10/month internet to eligible low-income families. This is a positive step, but ACORN will keep pushing for a truly inclusive program that meets the needs of our low-income members. StatsCan reports that 42% of households in the lowest income quartile of $30,000 or less do not have home internet access, compared with only 2% in the highest income quartile. This digital divide has serious implications for those who cannot afford internet access.
Read the full report here.