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Main Submissions

Vol. 11 No. 1 (2020): Volume 11: Determining Health

Digital health in a broadband land: The role of digital health literacy within rural environments

February 24, 2020


The rapid rise and widespread integration of digital technologies (e.g., smartphones, personal computers) into the fabric of our society has birthed a modern means of delivering healthcare, known as digital health. Through leveraging the accessibility and ubiquity of digital technologies, digital health represents an unprecedented level of reach, impact, and scalability for healthcare interventions, known as digital behaviour change interventions (DBCIs). The potential benefits associated with employing DBCIs are of particular interest for populations that are disadvantaged to receiving traditional healthcare, such as rural populations. However, several factors should be considered before implementing a DBCI into a rural environment, notably, digital health literacy. Digital health literacy describes the skills necessary to successful navigate and utilize a digital health solution (e.g., DBCI). Given their limited access to high-speed internet, higher cost associated for similar services, and poorer development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), most rural populations likely report lower digital health literacy – specifically, computer literacy, the ability to utilize and leverage digital technologies to solve problems. Hence, DBCIs should address this ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural populations before implementation. Practical solutions could include evaluating rural communities’ access to ICTs, needs assessments with rural community members, as well as integrating rural community stakeholders into the design of digital literacy education and interventions.