This is a guest post by Jessica Mark, healthfinder.gov and Outreach Program Manager, Health Communication and eHealth Team in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The result of this invitation is entitled Making Strides Toward Improving Health Literacy Online where Jessica Mark highlighted part of the work done by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. I really enjoy her post so I commented this:
Wonderful post! I wonder if eHealth literacy could be also a tool to integrate the elderly into Information Society / Network Society. It could be a tool to engage them within the tremendous potential of the Internet for other aspects of their lives. Health contents could be just an excuse to capture their attention (e-awareness) and help them to be online (e-readiness)
and Jessica Mark replied:
Francisco, thank you! I love the idea of eHealth literacy as a catalyst to overall digital literacy too. I’d love to hear/talk more about how that might work.
First of all, I would like to quote the main message of Prof. Jan van Dijk‘s book “The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society”
“The digital divide is deepening where it has stopped widening. In places where most of peopel are motivated to gain access and physical access is spreading, differences in skill and usage come forward. The more information and communication technology is immersed in society and pervades everyday life, the more it becomes attached to all exiting social divisions. It tends to strengthen them, as it offers powerful tools for everyone engaged. This occurs in the context of the evolving information society and network society. This type of society makes both digital and social divisions even more critical” (…) The digital divide is conceived of as a social and political problem, not a technological one. Physical access is portrayed as only one kind of (material) access among at least four: motivational, material, skills, and usage” (p.2-3)
As a part of his framework for understanding the digital divide, Prof. van Dijk has developed “A Causal and Sequential model of Digital Technology Access by individuals in Contemporary Societies” (p.24). I have included HEALTH as a field of participation in Society.
“The core argument of the book sets particular relationships between four states of affairs, in a process creating more or less information and communication inequality in using digital technologies (p.14):
- A number of personal and positional categorical inequalities in society
- The distribution of resources relevant to this type of inequality
- A number of kinds of access to ICTs
- A number of fields of participation in society
1 and 2 held to be the causes, and 3 is the phenomenon to be explained, together with 4, the potential consequences of the whole process (…). The core argument can be summarized in the following statements, which comprise the core of a potential theory of the digital divide (p.15):
- Categorical inequalities in society produce an unequal distribution of resources.
- An unequal distribution of resources causes unequal access to digital technologies.
- Unequal access to digital technologies also depends on the characteristics of these technologies.
- Unequal access to digital technologies brings about unequal participation in society.
- Unequal participation in society reinforces categorical inequalities and unequal distribution of resources.
The general term access to digital technologies has been divided into four specific, successive kinds of access to digital technology, computes, and the Internet connections (p.21):
- Motivational access (motivation to use these technologies)
- Material or physical access (possession of computers and Internet connection or permission to use them and their contents)
- Skills access (possession of digital skills: operational, informational, and strategic)
- Usage access (number and diversity of application, usage time)
I have posted before about the importance of eInclusion and eHealth and Inverse Care Law 2.0 talking about the successive kinds of access to digital technology but I have not posted about what are the reasons for not having access to the Internet at home to explain why eHealth literacy could be a catalyst to overall digital literacy among the elderly.
Eurostat’s survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals (2010) stated that the main reasons not to access the Internet at home in almost all countries are related with MOTIVATIONAL ACCESS (does not need to; does not want to) and SKILLS ACCESS
Individuals between 55-74 emphasised the importance of SKILLS ACCESS and MOTIVATIONAL ACCESS. Following the framework and the figures above mentioned, eHealth literacy could be a catalyst to overall digital literacy among the elderly because:
- Health could be a motivation for the elderly to use the Internet (e-awareness)
- This motivation could be used as a trigger to learn how to use this technology (e-readiness)
- Health professional and/or health care workers as well as relatives and/or friends could facilitate this learning process (ehealth literacy)
- Use of the Internet for health could open new fields of participation in society for the elderly.
- These new fields of participation in society could diminish categorical inequalities and unequal distribution of resources.