digital inclusion resources for community health workers

Background

In 2021 and 2022, the Health Forward Foundation of Kansas City funded a project to review the “digital” status of community health workers (CHWs) in the Kansas City metropolitan area and make recommendations of a curriculum or strategy for helping CHWs bridge the digital divide for both themselves and their clients. The team addressing this grant was composed of experts from KC Digital Drive, the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and the University of Missouri Extension. The project was entitled: Digital Equity for Community Health Workers.

This web site is dedicated to providing links to the resources identified by that team. 

This curriculum was developed after interviews with much of the CHW leadership in the Kansas City area, co-design workshops with 3 CHWs, and a trial of the courses by several more CHWs.

What is Digital Equity

Digital equity is achieved when everyone has the skills, devices, and connection to the internet necessary to use applications and the internet effectively for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital equity is necessary for communication, civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

The need for CHWs and the clients they serve to have digital equity has never been greater. Within this web site, CHWs should be able to find the resources in the Kansas City area that can meet the needs related to skills, internet connectivity, and devices.

Digital Skills

Digital skills are necessary to operate the electronic devices and systems that have become so common in work and daily life, including computers, mobile phones and tablets, apps, and social media. Workforce studies have shown:

  • The percentage of job postings for community health workers that required digital skills increased by 28 percent from 2019 to 2021
  • In 2021, 36% of jobs in Health Care and Social Assistance definitely required digital skill, while 95% were likely to have required digital skills. 

Today’s CHW has many needs to be able to use electronic systems and applications, to communicate with clients and coworkers, make appointments, document engagements with clients, and produce reports. This involves office applications such as internet search, email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. To an increasing degree, CHWs are expected to document their work in systems such as time reporting, the electronic health record (EHR), and care or case management systems. Further, they need to organize solutions to their clients’ needs in a social needs referral system. Now, they are being asked to set up remote connections for the clients to communicate with health care providers.

Similarly, the clients of CHWs need office skills to be able to secure jobs, internet skills to be able to apply for services, device skills to be able to communicate with health care providers, and overall familiarity will technology in the workplace

Digital Training

Could your skills using a computer or smartphone be improved? Don’t worry, there are great resources on the internet and in the Kansas City area to help you or your clients. The first step, of course, is to make sure that you have a PC, tablet or phone that can connect to the internet. We have provided information on this page for getting a PC or laptop at a very low cost, as well as internet connectivity subsidized by the Affordable Connectivity Program.

In this section we talk directly about training resources that are available to you.

On-Demand Tutorials

https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/communicationskills/being-a-good-digital-citizen/1/If you are able to access the internet, one of the best resources is sponsored by the Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF). It provides online tutorials on many topics in simple, easy-to-read, language which is often supported by short videos (usually around 2 minutes each). The advantage of the GCF approach is that learners can go at their own pace and easily review the materials (i.e., go back to any part of the tutorial for further consideration). The videos show the skill being used.

Click or tap here to be connected to the English-language section and here to be connected to the Spanish-language section. The home page provides links to sections on technology, work, core skills, and reading and math, and if you click or tap the 3 bars labeled “Topics” at the top of the web page, you will find links to all the courses offered by GCF. 

In our interviews with the CHW leadership, they stressed that technical skills were not enough. We should also cover proper use of the tools. Therefore, for the trial of the curriculum, we required participating CHWs to take courses on communications skills. 

For help in doing research on valid health information, please see the tutorial here.

There are many useful and often related tutorials to the ones we required. You will find tutorials for multiple skill levels in most topics, from computer and internet basics to applications like email, calendar, word processing, spread sheets, and presentations in both Microsoft Office and Google Workspace. There are even tutorials on the use of iOS (Apple iPhones) and Android (many manufacturers).

The Kansas City (Missouri) Public Library also offers an online tutorial system called Digital Learn. You can see the topics offered by following this link. Courses are in both English and Spanish, and there are several good sections on accessing health information. Registering for a class requires the learner to have an active library card and personal identity number (PIN), but there are no location restrictions. Anyone in the Kansas City metropolitan area is eligible for a library card and access to library services.

The Johnson County Library has several online offerings through ComputerExpress available here with registration and PIN or password. Registration requires the user to have an email address.

CHW-Specific Learning

There are systems and methods that are unique to the CHW role for which we have captured recordings of live classes. We know that CHWs will be using different systems and phones, but these videos are intended to give examples that will be similar in each system or phone.

KC Digital Drive will help to organize repeats of these courses live via Zoom on a quarterly basis. If you would like to attend, please register here. We will follow up with a meeting invitation and Zoom link.

In-Person Learning

There are multiple sources for in-person digital learning in the Kansas City area. The advantage of this approach is that an instructor is available to discuss and demonstrate the skills and respond directly to questions from the learners. Many people find this the most effective way to learn. The challenge is that there is no regular schedule of classes for individual learners to access. Most of the in-person classes available in the Kansas City area are intended for groups and must be organized by someone who will take responsibility for establishing the relationship and the schedule with the course provider. 

The courses linked on this page are free of charge and can be arranged by an official in your organization for a group of staff members, or even for a group of clients. The main thing in scheduling with these course providers is to have a clear idea of the number of learners who will attend so that the provider can have sufficient resources available.

Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas was our partner for the basic computer courses in the Health Forward Foundation CHW Digital Equity project. They provide in-person classes through three different methods. The first is in a classroom located at Goodwill’s Mission Support Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The second is to bring the instructor and computer equipment to a location like a meeting room that has been arranged by someone else. The third is to bring their Mobile Workforce Unit to a location arranged by someone else. The Mobile Workforce Unit is a mobile classroom equipped with 10 desktop computers, 2 presentation screens, Wi-Fi, and a printer.

The courses that Goodwill is able to deliver are identified here.

The Kansas City Public Library also organizes group courses for computer basics and office applications. Their range of technology offerings is linked here. There are supplementary courses that will be of interest to CHWs and their clients here (see “Course Menu” linked at the bottom of that page).

A particularly helpful service for learners provided by the Library is live technical help from an expert. You can check the schedule for meeting with the expert at area library or make a personal appointment with an expert with links found on the page here.

Certificates

Both Goodwill and the Kansas City Public Library offer certificates of completion to learners in partnership with Northstar Digital Literacy. This starts with registering at the course provider’s web site.  

Once learners are registered, they take an assessment of their digital skills. This establishes the starting point for the learner. After the assessment, the learner takes the digital skills courses. Then, after taking the courses, the learner makes arrangements with the course provider to retake the assessment. The course provider monitors (“proctors”) the learner taking the assessment. Once the learner is able to score 85% or better on the assessment, they can get a Certificate of Completion for the course.

Getting Connected

Getting connected to the internet has never been easier in the Kansas City area. Discounted internet service is available through the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program and computers are available at very low cost to eligible households.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

If you or your client have computing equipment, but no internet connection, you should consider the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). This program provides $30 per month toward internet connectivity through a wide range of internet service providers. This amount also may be used to cover the Lifeline telephone program.

Eligibility for ACP includes households participating in one of these programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) (including Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program (Section 8 Vouchers), Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)/202/811, Public Housing, and Affordable Housing Programs for American Indians, Alaska Natives or Native Hawaiians)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
  • Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, including at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision schools
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year

Applicants may need to show a card, letter, or official document as proof that they participate in one of these programs when they apply for the ACP. Households with an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines also qualify. More information is available at acpbenefit.org.

You may find the website for ACP here, but registration is not completely intuitive, so KC Digital Drive has developed a handbook to lead you through the process. You may find the handbook here.

Additional support is available through the Internet Access Support Program (IASP) which helps individuals and families connect to opportunities and resources that can help them get quality, high-speed internet access and manage their monthly internet bill. They can also help with establishing new service, restoring existing internet access, paying for your monthly internet bills, and understanding internet bills and how to get the most out of internet service. In addition to connecting you to outside resources, IASP also manages its own Internet Access Fund, which helps to reduce the cost of broadband access for KC residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by covering six months of internet service for households with an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. More information is available at kcconnect.me.

Getting a Device

The Kansas City area is fortunate to be served by an agency that can provide computer equipment at very low cost for people who meet certain income requirements. This is PCs for People. They can supply desktop PCs with cameras and an internet adaptor, as well as laptops. They can provide mobile hotspots for internet connectivity and assist clients in registering for the Affordable Connectivity Program. They also provide digital training.

If someone has a short-term need for a device and internet connectivity, the Kansas City Public Library is able to provide Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots for their patrons on a loan basis. 

Help?

Have questions? Please contact John Fitzpatrick at jfitzpatrick@kcdigitaldrive.org

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