The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is an organization that prepares women for leadership roles in public policy. In its 2020 summer seminar series, Women in Science and Health Innovation, Next Century Cities (NCC) was invited to discuss how broadband access supports telehealth programs and helps reduce health disparities. 

On July 23, 2020, Francella Ochillo, NCC’s Executive Director, joined Mia Keeys, Director of Health Equity Policy & Advocacy for the American Medical Association, and Eleanor Sarkodie, Research Data Analyst at Whitman-Walker Health, for a panel discussion. Using examples for Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency response efforts, Francella explained how access to broadband could help improve health outcomes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced health care providers to close their doors for non-emergency care in cities nationwide. Francella highlighted that, even though some were able to provide care via digital platforms, not all patients were able to get online. Millions of Americans, especially those in low-income households and hard to reach areas who do not have reliable access to broadband, cannot fully participate in telemedicine programs. Notably, patients struggling with broadband connectivity are often the same populations who do not have regular access to preventative care.