Digital literacy initiatives bridge health inequalities in north-west London

Published by Leaders of Great Britain on March 1st 2024, 10:10am

More than 2,000 individuals in north-west London have benefited from a comprehensive digital literacy initiative aimed at addressing health inequalities.

The North-West London Digital Inclusion programme, spearheaded by CW+, the charity arm of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has released an evaluation showcasing the success of its £1.1 million program.

Initiated under the NHS Charities Together Stage 2 (community partnerships) Covid Recovery Programme, CW+ funded three pivotal pilots over a two-year period. These pilots were meticulously designed to extend digital access to health, care, and community resources for individuals lacking digital literacy skills, ultimately enhancing their wellbeing and quality of life.

The three pilots funded by CW+ included DigitALL, a collaborative effort led by Open Age catering to older adults and individuals with learning disabilities in the Tri-borough area; Powering Recovery, managed by the West London NHS Trust, which offered patients a choice between digital and face-to-face health services; and Hiyos Live Channel, led by Hiyos GP practice in Hounslow, delivering online content addressing health inequalities, particularly focusing on NHS careers.

Imperial College Health Partners (ICHP) undertook the task of evaluating the effectiveness of these pilots. The results were nothing short of impressive. The DigitALL pilot witnessed a significant surge in both confidence and frequency of internet use among participants, with a remarkable increase from 20% to 100% of individuals using the internet weekly or daily by the end of the support period. Similarly, Powering Recovery reported enhancements in internet usage frequency and participants' confidence in utilising online health services.

Key highlights from the evaluation revealed substantial improvements in wellbeing levels among participants. For instance, at the commencement of the DigitALL and Powering Recovery programs, only 32% and 37% of participants reported high wellbeing levels, respectively. However, by the conclusion of the support period, these figures had soared to 65% and 78%.

Chris Chaney, Chief Executive of CW+, expressed delight at the program's impact saying, "During the Covid-19 pandemic many essential services moved online, which highlighted an already significant gap in digital literacy among some of the most vulnerable people in north-west London. This programme, supported by NHS Charities Together, sought to address that and we are delighted to have made such a positive impact on so many people.

We are hugely grateful to our partners for their hard work in building participants’ digital skills and confidence over the past two years. The results of the evaluation show the important role digital literacy training plays in addressing health inequalities, and our hope is that the findings from this project will be picked up and adopted in other areas."

One DigitALL participant, Tiblez, shared a touching testimony, illustrating the profound impact of the program on individual lives. Tiblez, originally from Eritrea, highlighted how the program transformed his life, providing him with the means to stay connected with family and friends, alleviate loneliness, and access essential services online.

The success of the DigitALL project was acknowledged as one of the 10 finalists for the Digital Skills or Talent Initiative of the Year Category in the Digital Leaders 100 awards show. Additionally, the project secured funding for another year, ensuring its sustainability and continued impact. Similarly, the Powering Recovery project was recognised as the runner-up for the Digital Inclusion Award at the ISPA Awards and accepted as a poster presentation at the International Integrated Care Conference.

The evaluation report compiled by ICHP has been shared with digital inclusion and third-sector stakeholders in north-west London, serving as a valuable resource for decision-making and guiding the evaluation of future digital inclusion projects in the region.

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March 1st 2024, 10:10am

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