Good Things Foundation Australia has been educating and improving digital health literacy skills throughout the challenges of coronavirus with the Health My Way program.
You might be surprised to learn that millions of Australians are not online or don’t have the skills to cope in the online world.
This can include not having devices, not knowing how to access government services or online banking, or not being able to assess the quality of information a website offers.
Never have digital skills been more needed than now.
Health My Way
Launched in January 2020 and running until December 2020, Health My Way is achieving its goal of educating and improving digital health literacy, despite the challenges of adapting to Coronavirus.
Skills – such as locating reliable and up-to-date health and wellbeing websites and apps or understanding how to use MyGov and My Health Record – are critical to ensure informed, confident choices when it comes to health and wellbeing online.
This is especially true in the current climate, but also overall.
VicHealth’s review of Healthy Living apps, for example, found that many apps are unlikely to help people achieve their health goals. So, despite the hundreds of apps available, many costing money, the need for trustworthy health information is greater than ever.
Thanks to programs available through Good Things Foundation Australia, more people have these skills and are confident in assessing the quality of information they locate online.
For example, 80 per cent of Health My Way participants recently reported feeling more confident and having increased their digital health literacy skills.
Seizing the moment
“Coronavirus has helped many people understand just how essential it is to have digital skills and how isolating and even dangerous it can be for people to not have online access,” says Jess Wilson, National Director of Good Things Foundation Australia.
2.5 million Australians are not online and many more have limited skills and confidence. Often these are people who are older, have lower incomes, are in regional areas or have a disability.
“We work with over 3,000 local community organisations on digital skills programs and learned during the pandemic that 75 per cent of their participants don’t have an internet-connected device they could use at home,” says Jess.
“So, we shifted the focus of our funding and programs to help organisations access equipment which they could then loan out to people in their communities.”
Coaching the coaches
Previous programs focused on face-to-face workshops, where people came together to learn and practise in safe environments.
But coronavirus changed all that.
Cassandra Strakosch, Head of Communications & Engagement for Good Things Foundation Australia, describes how they supported digital mentors in community organisations to change their model during the pandemic to remotely teach participants how to use devices and access online information and services.
“You can imagine the challenges involved in upskilling someone while using the very tool that they are trying to learn. It takes dedication and time from trusted people in communities to build up confidence and skills,” she says.
“We are sharing strategies with digital mentors like coaching people over the phone or having a ‘practice go’ at video calling first before participants try joining a group session. These approaches can support their community to keep improving their digital skills even when they can’t meet in-person.”
Tips for digitising digital skills
Social change organisations such as Good Things Foundation Australia are an important part of the health promotion ecosystem and bridge the gap between those who do and don’t have the skills and access to technology.
While delivering a health promotion program online takes some preparation, you don’t have to do it alone.
VicHealth has put together a series of fact sheets on digitisation, providing tips and information to help you adapt your programs.
Tips for offering digital coaching online
- Give participants different ways to access information: such as step-by-step guides, infographics, simple videos or one-to-one coaching online.
- Provide a dedicated person to be available via phone or video call to answer questions or talk through anything that appears difficult.
- Provide 'practice’ sessions for filling out difficult forms.