Information as a Social Determinant: 3 Ways Google is Addressing Health Inequalities - MedCity News

Social determinants fall into five main categories, according to health.gov: economic stability, access and quality of education, access and quality of health care, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.

But Google claims there’s another determining factor: information. That’s why the tech giant announced a series of updates Monday at the Google Health Equity Summit. The event was held both virtually and in person.

Below are three ways Google is fighting health inequity:

1. Improving health information

YouTube, which is owned by Google, and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) launched a collaboration on Monday called THE-IQ, or Addressing Health Equity through Information Quality. The program will work with three organizations: The Loveland Foundation, the National Birth Equity Collaborative and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute. Each will create a video series to help people in underrepresented communities. YouTube will provide seed funding and video strategy training, while KFF will work directly with each organization to help them create their videos, Tina Hoff, senior vice president of KFF, said at the meeting.

“It’s really critical that we amplify credible voices and deliver them in ways that people can relate to and relate to,” Hoff said.

Each organization will frame their videos around certain topics. The Loveland Foundation will focus on mental health access for Black women and girls, the National Birth Equity Collaborative will focus on improving birth outcomes for Black people, and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute will create videos on the root causes of health disparities.

The partnership will make it easier for people to get reliable health information from trusted sources, they said Garth Graham, head of YouTube Health, at the meeting.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that people find information from evidence-based, authoritative sources to help tackle the serious problem of medical misinformation,” he said. “Health care leaders also have a responsibility to keep up with changes in where and how people find information. That’s why YouTube Health is investing in helping the industry learn these skills, because you can connect with people in ways that are not only scientifically accurate, but also culturally relevant and engaging.”

Production on the videos will begin in September and the videos are expected to be released in November, according to a news release.

2. Advanced search functions

In addition to fighting misinformation, Google is also improving search features ahead of open enrollment to help people find health coverage. When people search for Medicare and Medicaid plans, they’ll get additional information about eligibility and enrollment requirements for their states and the federal government, Hema Budaraju, senior director of search, health and social impact at Google, said at the event.

But even when people are enrolled in government plans, many still struggle to find health care providers, Budaraju said. To make this easier, Google updated its search features so people can filter for nearby health care providers that accept Medicaid, something it already does for Medicare.

“Research shows that people with lower incomes often lack access to health care and other services,” Budaraju said. “The government now offers benefit programs like Medicaid that can really deliver and improve health outcomes. Yet there are millions of people who are enrolled in these programs who don’t know how to access the services, and there are many who probably don’t have the right information.

3. Extension of research

Finally, Google is expanding Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative, which launched last year to provide Fitbit and Fitabase resources to researchers analyzing health disparities and potential solutions. Fitabase is a data management platform that supports wearable research. Last year’s awardees incorporated organizations researching Black maternal, fetal, and postpartum health; transgender youth dream; diabetes and cardiovascular health in Latino communities; and adolescent health and well-being, according to a news release.

The application period to participate in the program is from September 12 to October 12. Those chosen can win Fitbit devices and Google Cloud credits or funding. In addition, with Fitabase, researchers can access remote data collection and analysis tools.

Photo: syahrir maulana, Getty Images

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