High-Speed Broadband Access, Mobile Apps Offer Hope for Improved Health Equity
People of color continue to suffer disproportionately from many diseases and chronic health conditions, many of which are preventable. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated April as National Minority Health Month in an effort to raise awareness and prompt solutions to this problem.
These health disparities are a very real problem. They can contribute to shorter life spans, reduced quality of life, higher health care costs for people of color and increased pressure points on the US health care system. Factors contributing to health disparities are numerous and complex, but expanded access to high speed broadband and advances in Internet-based technologies and services have the potential to remove many of the barriers that prevent our communities from accessing quality care.
For example, African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, as compared with non-Hispanic whites, and they are more likely to suffer from diabetes complications like renal failure. The increase in diabetes diagnoses and the growing demand for mobile apps have resulted in the development of many mHealth apps for diabetes patients.
These apps can help people with diabetes monitor their blood glucose and track nutrition and activity levels, which can help prevent complications and improve overall wellness. For many people, the ability to take charge of their own health is empowering, and more mobile apps for diabetes are on the horizon.
Other innovations in health care technology have made a positive impact on our communities as well. Wireless, in-home health monitoring devices can improve health outcomes for people with chronic conditions, and their use is steadily on the rise. These monitors can collect and send health data, including blood glucose, blood pressure, and respiratory rates, directly to medical professionals.
Smart devices allow patients with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and heart disease to work with medical personnel to monitor their condition while remaining in their home, without the inconvenience of traveling to appointments.
Heart disease--and risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity--also affects the African American community at a disproportionately high rate. African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white males. The Office of Minority Health also reports that 34 percent of African Americans have hypertension, compared with 24 percent of whites.
These facts are sobering, but innovations in health technologies and expanded access to high-speed broadband offer hope and the possibility that we can overcome these statistics. A variety of mobile apps are available to help people assess their heart disease risk, monitor sodium and caloric intake, quit smoking, track physical activity, and even determine heart rate.
These broadband powered mobile apps, along with other wireless technologies, have empowered those with heart disease (or accompanying risk factors) to take charge of their health and to work with medical professionals to achieve improved wellness, health, and quality of life.
Advances in these broadband-enabled health innovations, including telemedicine and mHealth, have helped many patients and families assess and reduce their health risks, leading to more vibrant lifestyles and an enhanced quality of life. For communities of color, it is especially urgent that we increase broadband deployment to enhance the availability of these technologies and health tools, as well as encourage the development of new ones.
Upgrading America's communications infrastructure to all high-speed broadband networks is a critical step. Accelerating the transition to modern, lightning-fast broadband networks will bring expanded access and greater technological capabilities to our entire country. An all-broadband network in the United States can support the services, speeds, and technologies of the future, and they will further advance innovation in mHealth and other health tools.
The theme of this year's National Minority Health Month is "Advance Health Equity Now." It's a lofty goal, but not an impossible one. Today's health technologies are already making a positive impact, and tomorrow's technologies promise even greater results.
Expanded and enhanced high-speed broadband networks will fuel more innovations that can help this goal become a reality for America's minority communities. Private investment and government policies that help accelerate broadband deployment to more of America will help improve people's access to online health tools and empower all consumers to actively take steps to improve their lives and lead healthier lifestyles.