This blog was written in partnership with CHANGE Health Community Program (CHCP).
We have had to alter our lives to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes moving work, school and extracurricular activities into our homes and using technology to connect with others. While this transition may have been seamless for some, it has presented challenges for others.
The digital divide
A digital divide1 exists within our communities—there are inequities in the ability to access and use the internet. While a family may have access to the internet, other challenges may persist such as access to only one device for both remote work and learning for multiple family members. Additionally, the functionality across devices is not equal and not all devices operate programs like Zoom or Google Hangouts in the same way. This adds additional barriers to connecting online.
As programs shifted from in-person to online due to the pandemic, the CHCP team noticed this digital inequity in some of the communities they supported. Many families expressed difficulty engaging in the weekly interactive sessions on their smartphones or had issues with internet connectivity within the home. The CHCP team worked collaboratively with community partners to find solutions for these issues.
With the help of Naima Haile and Mulki Ali from CHCP, and assistance from the Multicultural Health Brokers (MCHB), both organizations were able to leverage existing programming at the MCHB to provide families with new technology solutions.
Naima Haile expressed that this was a great learning opportunity for families. “Families can now see each other and connect in a safe way that they weren’t able to do before. It’s also been really helpful for them to have us there to support them as they learn how to navigate the technology.”
“Supporting equity and wellness for all communities is important. We are pleased the CHCP partnerships and collaborations led to an innovative solution to support these families,” says Charlene Mo, manager of Wellness Partnerships and Innovation at Alberta Blue Cross.
The CHCP team distributed Chromebook laptops for families in another community so they can fully participate in the online program. The first session they participated in was one of the popular online cooking classes led by a registered dietician.
For many families in this community, the Chromebook represents an investment in their ability to participate in the CHCP. However, there are also wider ranging impacts of the laptops—the technology enables participants to socially connect with others (a key priority of the program) including family across the country and around the world.
After receiving the laptops, one of the participants reflected, “I’ll be able to connect with other families whenever they are online … and there’ll be no excuses for me and then my kids will be able to join easily too.”
Alberta Blue Cross has partnered with Dr. Doug Klein of the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine and his team to launch CHCP, which supports families as they come together to re-learn healthy living in their communities. Health professionals, such as dietitians, exercise specialists and mental health clinicians help guide these sessions and support families and community members through four main areas, which include
- nutrition and meal preparation,
- physical activity and lifelong wellness,
- mental health and well-being, and
- family relationships and community connections.
If you are interested in participating in CHCP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.