The fourth and final Sierra Learning Community consisted of a two-part program focused on continued resilience building for families, agencies and communities by using technology to bring people together.  Part I was held on May 13, 2020, and Part II on May 21, 2020.    

Part I of the Learning Community featured three speakers, with time for reflection and sharing of ideas to expand the use of technology.  We began by asking how folks have stayed connected with their colleagues during the pandemic.  Summary of ideas is shared below: 

  • Use the house party app, use games and icebreakers, have a dance off!
  • Drive by to say hello and stay connected.
  • Zoom library days, zoom yoga, zoom self-care and mindfulness Monday’s
  • Virtual weddings; One town is doing its high school graduation on the radio!
  • Make fun, collaborative photos, send inspirational messages, snail mail gifts in the mail for mental health month.

 Mei Wa Kwong, JD, Executive Director, Center for Connected Health Policy, shared information on the status of Tele-health programs and policies in California, and highlighted innovative uses for telehealth services.    

Participants were asked to share how they have innovated or improved the utilization of technology to support their community during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Creative and innovative suggestions were as follows: 

  • Using remote platforms, such as zoom, webex, and google classroom to host virtual Family Workshops, story times.
  • Record counseling sessions and mindfulness ideas on YouTube for youth to view.
  • Utilize a peer to peer support model in remote settings to minimize isolation.
  • Daily phone calls, have case managers text and call without having their phone numbers show up.
  • E-newsletter for clients, students, as a way to stay connected.
  • Virtual office hours where people can come in and obtain assistance.
  • Call people first to screen them before meeting.
  • Provide certificates for parents for “Being the Best In-home Teacher”
  • Don’t forget to use phone calls, texting, and Snail Mail! Send gifts and reminders.
  • Create Instagram and/or Facebook accounts for programs.
  • Host practice sessions to help people learn how to use remote platforms. 

Next, we heard from Patrick Kane, Central Sierra Connect Program Manager, Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency.  Patrick provided information on the role of Regional Consortium’s funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to close the Digital Divide and ensure that 98% of Californians are connected to high-speed Internet.    Patrick also shared information about the CalSpeed mobile application, available for free download on your mobile device.  You are then able to share information on the quality of mobile broadband service in your area with the CPUC.  

Participants were asked about strategies they have used to promote equity for constituents in accessing services during the Covid 19 pandemic: 

  • Larger providers, such as Comcast and ATT, have affordable options for low income customers.
  • School buses can be used as portable WiFi hotspots.
  • One agency keeps its office open for one user at a time to access computers and internet.
  • Share the CalSpeed App information widely in your community (flyer is attached).

Ian S. Costello, Program Manager, Data & Analytics, Corporation for Supportive Housing, shared information on the Frequent Users Systems Engagement (FUSE), which uses the Homeless Information System to address public health issues in the homeless population.  Key to the FUSE approach is data sharing.  Ian emphasized the importance of obtaining buy in at the beginning of any project to share data.  Then, make sure to understand how and what the law allows. 

Part II featured a presentation from Ann Banchoff, MSW, MPH, Director of Community Engagement, Our Voice: Citizen Science for Health Equity, a program that supports community members in collecting and using their own data to build healthier communities.  Prior to the event, all registrants had an opportunity to utilize the application and imagine its potential use in their community. 

Ann provided information about how the Discovery Tool has been used throughout the world to provide individuals with a voice in their community.  Attendees share some ideas for how they might use the tool, including features in the environment that would easy or hard for children play outside; features in the environment that make you feel safe; and, identifying spaces that promote mental health and well-being. 

Learn more about Our Voice and the Discovery Tool by viewing this 2 minute video:  Our Voice: Citizen Science for Health Equity


Barbara Degraf

Author Barbara Degraf

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