Meet Lauren, Our Digital Inclusion Champion for Health and Wellbeing in the North Cotswolds

Lauren Woods is our new Technology and Digital Inclusion Social Prescribing Link Worker for the North Cotswolds - but what does that mean?

Digital devices like phones, tablets, and laptops are rapidly becoming essential for people to be able to look after their health and wellbeing.   From booking appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions with the NHS app, to finding local support groups or learning about medical conditions,  or just keeping in touch with family and friends for social support, it’s all happening more and more through apps and websites these days. 

Lauren Woods teaching people how to use the NHS App

But what about those people who have been left behind?  People who never gained digital skills at school or at work, or who haven’t had the money to buy smartphones, tablets, and laptops, or who haven’t ever had the confidence or the help to learn how to use these new devices.   These people are Gloucestershire’s “digitally excluded”, a group of people that GRCC has been working hard to help through a range of digital inclusion projects.

The latest of these projects is Lauren’s new role, which has come about thanks to a collaboration between GRCC's DAISI Project and the NHS North Cotswolds Primary Care Network.

“As far as we know, this is the first Social Prescribing Link Worker post anywhere in the UK which takes a technology and digital inclusion approach to improving health and wellbeing,” said Dan Gale, GRCC’s Digital Inclusion Manager.

Lauren is working closely with GP practices and charities in the North Cotswolds to help people who are struggling with their health or wellbeing to be able to use digital devices to improve how they are feeling.  

“One of the biggest issues reported is loneliness,” explained Lauren.  “Providing people with digital skills and resources to stay connected with their community is vital for tackling social isolation. Whether through social media, or communication tools like Zoom, WhatsApp, SMS or email, staying connected is essential.”

“Many people find themselves excluded by technology,” said Lauren.  “This exclusion can be due to many factors, such as the cost of buying devices and paying for broadband or phone contracts, or fear of technology, or a lack of awareness of the digital resources that are available, or a lack of skills.  My role aims to educate, enable, and bring digital equity to those in the North Cotswolds.”

One of the first things that Lauren is doing is setting up training sessions to teach people how to get the most from the NHS App.  The first group will be in Bourton on the Water, where Lauren will be running a weekly session at the George Moore Community Centre starting on Tuesday 20th February, 10.30am to 12.30pm.

"As well as the group work,  I'm doing a lot of work one-to-one with individuals," said Lauren.  "I've been been helping people with things like setting up Alexa, internet security, helping a first-time smartphone user set up their device, and helping people start to use health apps for blood pressure, diabetes, and physiotherapy."

If you’d like to get in touch with Lauren, please call or text her on 07467 923154, or email laurenw@grcc.org.uk