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J Med Internet Res. 2010 Dec 17;12(5):e60. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1463.

Using evidence-based internet interventions to reduce health disparities worldwide.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA. ricardo.munoz@ucsf.edu

Abstract

Health disparities are a persistent problem worldwide. A major obstacle to reducing health disparities is reliance on "consumable interventions," that is, interventions that, once used, cannot be used again. To reduce health disparities, interventions are required that can be used again and again without losing their therapeutic power, that can reach people even if local health care systems do not provide them with needed health care, and that can be shared globally without taking resources away from the populations where the interventions were developed. This paper presents the argument that automated self-help evidence-based Internet interventions meet the above criteria and can contribute to the reduction of health disparities worldwide. Proof-of-concept studies show that evidence-based Internet interventions can reach hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and could be used in public sector settings to augment existing offerings and provide services not currently available (such as prevention interventions). This paper presents a framework for systematically filling in a matrix composed of columns representing common health problems and rows representing languages. To bring the benefits of evidence-based Internet interventions to the underserved, public sector clinics should establish eHealth resource centers, through which patients could be screened online for common disorders and provided with evidence-based Internet intervention services not currently available at the clinics. These resources should be available in the patients' languages, in formats that do not require literacy, and that can be accessed with mobile devices. Such evidence-based Internet interventions should then be shared with public sector clinics as well as individuals anywhere in the world. Finally, this paper addresses sustainability and describes a continuum of evidence-based Internet interventions to share nationally and across the world. This approach to expanding health service delivery will significantly contribute to a reduction of health disparities worldwide, adding to the often-quoted slogan, "Think globally, act locally," a third line: "Share globally."

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