St. David’s Foundation is one of the largest healthcare foundations in the United States, investing over $80 million each year. Through a unique partnership with St. David’s HealthCare, the foundation reinvests proceeds from the hospital system back into the community, with a goal of advancing health equity and improving the health and well-being of our most underserved Central Texas neighbors. Through direct service programs and collaborative funding partnerships, the foundation works across five counties in Central Texas to reduce health inequity, increase access to healthcare, and support communities to take an active role in their health and well-being needs.
Oftentimes, when we think about health equity, we think about access to affordable healthcare. Yet building a culture of health goes far beyond access. Health equity is achieved when a person’s health can no longer be predicted by their race, ethnicity, gender, access to resources, or zip code. While clinical healthcare plays a role in a community’s health outcomes, approximately 80% of health outcomes are determined by social and communitywide factors — whether environmental, socioeconomic, or behavioral.
“Health is more than healthcare,” says Abena Asante, MHA, senior program officer at St. David’s Foundation. “Problems such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, lack of public transportation, low educational attainment, and neighborhood deterioration all shape health. We know that these influential drivers of health, which show up either through economic, environmental, or behavioral access, exist outside the healthcare realm. Through our partnerships with the community, we support those working to tackle the barriers that impede individuals from attaining optimal health.”
Broadband Access as a Social Determinant of Health
Central to the foundation’s work is its collaboration with community partners to understand assets, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. Over the past couple of years, its partners in rural Texas have highlighted broadband access and digital literacy skills as an issue to collectively address. The pandemic made it clear that rural and underserved communities that lack reliable and affordable broadband internet could not participate in remote education, work, leisure, or healthcare activities. It also heightened the threat of social isolation and loneliness for older adults — which can have a significant impact on one’s well-being.
“Broadband fits into health because it impacts an individual’s ability to participate in an increasingly digital environment,” says Abena. “We know that lacking internet access can lead to social isolation. If people don’t have an adequate connection or the knowledge of how to use devices, they are impacted in their education and work. It’s all connected. … It was important for us to think about ways in which we could not only support broadband and connectivity issues but also to help individuals know what to do when they have adequate broadband and connectivity.”
Launching DigitalLIFT with CTN
In Austin, several nonprofits are working on digital connectivity and literacy. Yet in more rural and outlying areas, there are fewer dedicated programs that help people utilize the internet. Recognizing this gap, St. David’s Foundation teamed up with Community Tech Network to address the digital divide in rural Texas. Their funding will support our newest DigitalLIFT initiative — a capacity-building program that will equip 10 agencies in Caldwell County with the knowledge, training, and support needed to integrate digital literacy programming into their service delivery.
Despite its proximity to larger urban areas, Caldwell County has insufficient access to affordable broadband and a low internet adoption rate. DigitalLIFT will train a range of agencies across Caldwell County, including workforce development programs, healthcare clinics, libraries and senior centers, social service providers, and government offices. The ultimate goal of the program is to leverage CTN’s experience working in digital equity to help Caldwell agencies get their communities online.
“We see digital inclusion as a social determinant of health,” Abena reflects. “It’s a barrier to not have internet connection, a device, or the knowledge of how to use it. These barriers cause inequity in access, resources, and other information that allow a person to achieve optimal health and well-being. St. David’s Foundation is committed to working alongside our communities to find innovative solutions and partnerships that ensure our neighbors can fully participate and thrive in an increasingly global online society.”
CTN is grateful to be among the many incredible organizations funded by St. David’s Foundation. With their support, we look forward to creating a more digitally equitable Caldwell County! Apply today!
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