“I’m hungry. I’m cold. I want to go home.”
These are needs everyone understands.
But what if there were other very-real necessities? An article by Government Technology claims internet access may now be as important as food and water.
Rural health researchers are working to get internet access as an infrastructural service to provide telehealth communication.
A 2019 Pew Trust survey found that 60% healthcare facilities outside urban settings struggled to have broadband connection. Rural areas without regular internet service are known as “double-burdened counties,” since connection opportunities are a sliver of those available in metropolitan areas.
Research results of rural citizens and physical health found that high mortality rates coincided with barren or rough terrain. Counties with less than 5% broadband usage proved to have a population portion with 70% lung cancer cases!
Many telecommunication companies can’t provide affordable connection for rural homes, leaving funding up to government programming.
In 2017, the LAUNCH cooperative was created to “demonstrate broadband-enabled connected health and community-based co-design” in Kentucky.
“Rather than having experts coming into a rural area and saying, “We have a solution for you,’ the idea is that to be successful, solutions that are meaningful and likely to be used in areas with particular cultures and have to be built with lots of input from participants,” Behavioral Science Researcher David Ahern said.
Allen County, Kentucky, for example, has limited health resources – and the landscape doesn’t help. People in some areas must drive over 2 ½ hours just to get to a hospital!
There’s only one pediatrician in the county as well, leaving over 3,000 students with minimal access. The LAUNCH initiative has connected students virtually with health professionals at Vanderbuilt University Children’s Hospital through school nurses.
While some states offer government funding for internet connection, there are still more in need. According to a Michigan survey, only 60% have at-home broadband access, leaving around 40% of the population entirely out of the equation for telehealth service.
But there is hope. As of 2018, a $20 million grant was established to aid cabling input throughout remote areas of the Mitten. Ohio, Washington, and Oregon also have state funding programs to make broadband use more widespread.
“This is an essential program for rural health-care providers, and it needs to work a lot better to continue making a positive impact,” Nic Powers, the CEO of Winding Waters Community Health Centers in Oregon said. “Broadband connectivity underpins so much of the work we do every day and it’s so expensive in rural America.”
Telehealth appointment availability dramatically decreases mortality rates. Post-surgery meetings accounting for patient stress levels and pain reduce hospitalizations by over 75%.
The COVID-19 season has shifted many telecommunication agencies to seek joining LAUNCH. Their mission will help continue lowering mortality rates by providing health support where options are limited.
“What does Endeavor have to do with this?”
While Endeavor has not yet moved into the health sector, we plan to in the future. LAUNCH is doing this well and we are thrilled to see overlapping passions with broadband and health services in other states. This is yet another key way to enrich our community and aid building a better future.
“We want to engage caregivers, family members, community health organizations and church leaders who can be part of a broader solution enabled by connectivity. Fundamentally, it isn’t just putting in the broadband and walking away. We are looking at infrastructure as a core element to broaden the ecosystem,” David Ahern said.
Endeavor has continually made strides to demonstrate our commitment to the community. To learn more about what we currently offer and our hopes for the coming years, check out our website or call us at 1.800.922.6677.