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Online skills for reliable health information

St George Careers Development Centre empowers seniors to find reliable health and nutrition information online.

By Good Things Foundation Australia · 23/04/2021

Health My Way lesson at St George Careers Development Centre featuring seniors using tablets. Session conducted by Be Connected Lead Digital Mentor George Ahern (Centre).

St George Careers Development Centre has been successfully delivering Good Things Foundation’s Health My Way program in their community over the past year. Having already been running a basic digital skills program for seniors in their community, they saw the need to extend these skills so people could make use of online government services such as MyGov and My Health Record, and learn how to find reliable health information online.

To kick-start their community digital health literacy program in early 2020, Good Things Foundation provided them with a $5,000 grant, a resource pack and Digital Health Mentor training for their staff.

When COVID hit, they transitioned some of their program online via Zoom, but found it was difficult to support people with very basic digital skills in this way. However, with restrictions in Sydney easing late last year, they were able to restart their face-to-face program.

George Ahern, Program Coordinator at St George Careers Development Centre, found that the people in their community who were most involved in the program were the over 65’s, particularly those living in retirement villages. Nutrition was a health topic that many were interested in and which lent itself well to sessions that combined digital skills with information provided by a guest speaker.

“People living in retirement villages are living independently and manage their own health, with some support. We did a 45 -minute presentation and online quiz on nutrition in retirement villages with follow-up support in small groups which worked well,” said George.

“Some seniors have a background in doing some things online, but they haven’t gone to the next step of using it for MyGov. Those who have used MyGov often have not accessed My Health Record.”

As a Digital Health Mentor, George was prudent in the approach he used to assist community members to find trustworthy information about their health and wellbeing online.

“I made sure not to give health advice, but ensured we could support people by improving their digital skills so they could find reliable information or know who to ask. We made sure they did not just Dr Google, and instead went to official government websites. We also looked at the topic of what to do if government websites do not give you the information you need by providing more general support on how to find reliable information online,” said George.

Through the Health My Way program, St George Careers Development Centre connected with over 200 people in the community. While COVID interrupted the program model of having a community engagement event with follow-up support in small groups, the organisation considers that this is still the right approach for connecting with people to improve their digital health skills. George would like to see the digital health literacy program continued, and says that younger people and refugees in his community still need support to access online health services and information.