How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

Makeba Giles

Makeba Giles

Content Creator and Curator at MELISASource
Makeba Giles is an Health, Family, and Lifestyle Blogger. She is also a Midwest Mother of four, and the Founder and Creative Director of MELISASource.com. |

EMAIL: melisasour[email protected]
Makeba Giles

Technology use is on the rise, and the critical public health need to reach vulnerable and minority populations impacted most by diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke is higher than ever before. Digital and mobile technology are transforming healthcare, and offer a solution to giving those in underserved communities better access to care.

The CDC says one out of two Americans are impacted by a chronic disease. That’s why the Aetna Foundation is leveraging the power of digital health technology to improve health in underserved communities through the Healthier World Innovation Challenge.

According to recent research from the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of mobile phone owners used their phones to look for health information in 2012, up from 17 percent two years earlier. Latinos, African Americans and people between the ages of 18-49 are more likely than other groups to access health information on their mobile devices. Additional Pew Research also reveals that nearly a quarter of low-income adults in the U.S. own smartphones and regularly access the Internet on a mobile device.

During a recent interview, Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, President of the Aetna Foundation and a national authority on health disparities and health care quality and former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shared more details about how technology is bringing healthcare to minority communities. He discussed details of the Aetna Foundation’s new digital health initiative with me, and the ways in which the initiative can help improve lives.

How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

MLS: Why do so many people in underserved communities face disparities in health care?  

Dr. Graham: The people in underserved communities face a number of challenges. They have less access to care: not only in the form of not having access to see a nurse or a doctor when sick, but also access to information on making healthier choices, particularly on diet and exercise. As a result, many folks in these communities have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses. It’s very important for us both individually and as a country to work to find solutions to help get people healthier.

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MLS: How can technology have an impact on chronic diseases?

Dr. Graham: Technology as a tool to power individuals to make healthy decisions is where it has the most impact. Just think: if we can get people to make healthier choices in a real-time way, that would allow them to take the preventative steps needed to help reduce or delay the development of such diseases.

 How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities 

MLS: What is the role that smart phones can play in addressing the digital divide that keeps at-risk populations from accessing health information?

Dr. Graham: Many of the risk factors associated with chronic diseases could be reversed if we got them under control much sooner. The important thing is to figure out how to make sure that present and future generations live a healthier lifestyle. That is where technology can improve the health outcome: by improving the health choices that people make and help people to make healthier choices at an earlier stage.

How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

MLS: What are some examples of how the Aetna Foundation’s Healthier World Innovation Challenge can help to improve the health of Americans?

Dr. Graham: The Healthier World Innovation Challenge is a challenge that we’re doing all around the country to find creative individuals who are interested in working with underserved communities and using technology to help serve these communities. We will be rewarding those individuals with grants for their work. People can go to www.aetnafoundation.org for more information and to learn how to get the grants.

 How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

MLS: How does the program work, and what kind of organizations will qualify for the grants?

Dr. Graham: The Healthier World Innovation Challenge is going to fund non-profit organizations $750,000 dollars over a three-year period to work on developing and applying digital health technology for underserved communities. Our goal is to bring smart and innovative minds together to serve and benefit people that need it the most.

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 How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

~To learn more about how technology is bringing healthcare to minority communities and the Healthier World Innovation Challenge, visit: www.aetnafoundation.org.

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 How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority CommunitiesAbout Dr. Garth Graham: 

Dr. Garth Graham MD, MPH is President of the Aetna Foundation. His numerous achievements include implementing key health provisions of the Affordable Care Act, guiding the development of the first federal action plan to eliminate health disparities under the Obama administration, and driving the effort that for the first time closed the gap in flu vaccination rates among children of color. 

Dr. Graham is also a widely recognized researcher, writer and editor on health disparities. He has authored articles that have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Health Affairs and Circulation.

How Technology Is Bringing Healthcare To Minority Communities

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