Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP) reports that 7 out of 10 Californians are unable to afford internet plans that are $60/month or more. The affordability challenge directly impacts countless families with students and older adults within the state who live on fixed incomes and must choose between an internet plan for education, health care, and other critical resources, including prescriptions and housing. In the absence of connectivity, many Californians have been left behind, especially as the nation has leaned on telehealth for the last three years. As part of our commitment to supporting efforts that address digital inequity through its impact as a social determinant of health, we have awarded a Michelson Spark Grant to ITUP.

There is an opportunity to join forces with telehealth advocates to help close broadband equity gaps once and for all with unprecedented federal funding commitments. From April to December of this year, ITUP will implement a multi-step approach to facilitate health care participation in California’s State Digital Equity Plan (SDEP), ultimately influencing how the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding is allocated.

Driven by their mission to promote innovative and workable policy solutions that expand health care access and improve the health of all Californians, ITUP is uniquely positioned to convene and mobilize healthcare stakeholders through their network of over 4,0000 individuals. They will also work with the California Department of Technology (CDT), California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), and the Institute of Self Reliance (ILSR) to integrate the collective knowledge, expertise, and priorities into the SDEP.

Earlier this Spring, ITUP, in partnership with ILSR, held an in-person Broadband Bootcamp event in Sacramento, CA, which focused on broadband basics, state-level engagement for digital equity health, and the creation of actionable steps for state and local health care leaders advancing digital equity in health care. Following the event, ITUP published Broadband Bootcamp Report: Informing California’s State Digital Equity Plan, which memorializes discussions held during the workshop. Questions included:

  • What are the digital barriers to health you [have] …encountered in your work and/or what digital barriers to health have the communities you serve faced in accessing health care?
  • How do digital barriers to health contribute to, or worsen health disparities?
  • What solutions for digital barriers to healthcare access have you/could you use in your work to make access to health care more accessible for the communities you work for or with?
  • What support or policies are needed to operationalize the solutions identified for breaking down digital barriers?
  • In what ways can the SDEP help support you in breaking down the digital divide to advance health equity in your work?

Beyond the workshop, ITUP will continue to serve as co-chair of the SDEP’s health Outcome Area Working Group (OAWG). As co-chair, ITUP works with CDT to develop strategies to serve the eight covered populations, conduct research, track broadband and health care policy, and develop recommendations for the state digital equity plan.

Eventually, the lack of affordable broadband and accessible digital literacy resources will prohibit the state from fully maximizing technologies serving the medical needs of Californians. We are proud to support ITUP as a Michelson 20MM grantee as they work to protect vulnerable populations by breaking down barriers to digital health care and increasing digital equity within our state.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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