Scheme aims to boost equity in digital cancer resources

Gilda's Club, Twin Cities

Telehealth company Equiva has started working with cancer charity Gilda’s Club to make it easier for households affected by cancer in Minnesota to access online support resources.

The initiative is being delivered as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s recently launched Affordable Connectivity Programme (ACP), a $14.2 billion scheme set up in late 2021 which aims to improve health equity in the US by providing discounted broadband and in-home tablet devices to eligible families.

Equiva has partnered with wireless Internet service provider Infiniti Mobile on a platform to help boost enrolment in the ACP, which is open to households in which at least one member is already enrolled in Medicaid or another government assistance programme.

The White House estimates that 48 million households could be eligible for the AP, but, according to the FCC, less than 15 million had done so as of last November, as stated in a Health IT News report. Meanwhile, around 28 million households are thought to have no Internet access at all.

Gilda’s Club is named after actress Gilda Radner, who died from ovarian cancer in 1989, and was set up by her husband and fellow actor Gene Wilder in 1995 to help people with cancer find social and emotional support with their friends and family.

The Equiva project is a partnership between the company and Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, based in Minneapolis, and is targeting individuals at higher risk of developing cancer who live in urban and rural settings in Minnesota.

Nir Altman, co-founder and CEO of Equiva, and the company's partners reckon it is the first programme of its kind, coupling “digital health engagement technology with a federally supported broadband connectivity programme, in a framework that helps providers and payors advance health equity.”

The recipients get FCC discounts of up to $30 per month towards Internet service – and up to $75 per month for Tribal lands – and a tablet device preloaded with digital access to virtual cancer support groups, healthy lifestyle education, cancer treatment information, and other resources.

It also includes the Cancer Support Source distress, depression, and anxiety app, which will allow Gilda’s Club Twin Cities to identify individuals who could benefit from emotional support services or resource referrals.

“It’s estimated that 34,380 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year across Minnesota,” said Katherine Todd, executive director of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities.

“Through this first-of-its-kind initiative, we can reach even more people impacted by cancer with valuable resources that can help contribute to improved outcomes,” she added.

According to a 2021 study by the Commonwealth Fund, some people from racial and ethnic minority groups experience higher rates of poor health for several conditions, including cancer. In the analysis, the US ranked poorly on healthcare delivery, coming last out of a group of 11 countries despite spending far more of its gross domestic product on healthcare.