fcc_map_7jan2015The promise of digital, connected health to engage all health citizens cannot be fully realized until people have access to the new social determinant of health: broadband connectivity.

The World Health Organization considers social determinants of health inputs like education, safe drinking water, nutritious food, safe neighborhoods for walking, employment and transportation access. Together, these factors bolster personal/individual and public health.

See the map of the U.S., and note whee the concentrations of aqua blue are. These are areas that lack broadband access.

Telehealth and other digital health tools can get health care to under-served people in under-served geographic areas….where broadband connectivity exists. Where it doesn’t, the very people who need health care services most can’t get them due to many of the other social determinants of health: transportation, distance, access to basic health care services (primary care shortages abound in rural America), health literacy challenges.

I penned a column published today in The Huffington Post on this topic, Broadband Connectivity Is A Social Determinant of Health. See how Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) submitted legislation this week on expanding health IT to rural areas (with broadband at the center). Note how Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has prioritized expanding broadband to 100% of American homes in her technology platform.

Don’t assume that smartphones are the Nirvana for health care democratization. Data plans cost money that too many health citizens in America can’t afford in light of tight family budgets and growing health care costs. For more on that topic, see my paper written for California Healthcare Foundation, Digitizing the Safety Net.