Cincinnati--In 1994, the US Department of Commerce National
Telecommunications and Information Administration initiated the
Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program,
now known as the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP). TOP provides
matching grants to a wide range of nonprofit organizations,
jumpstarting many valuable programs throughout the country, enhancing
communities through information technology and bringing Americans into
the information age. Despite the positive impact it has had on schools,
libraries, hospitals, public safety entities and state and local
governments, this critical program is slated for elimination in the
Federal Budget for the fiscal year 2003.
One very successful
program made possible by TOP is NetWellness (netwellness.org), provided
jointly by the University of Cincinnati (UC), The Ohio State University
(OSU) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). NetWellness is a
consumer health Web service supplying about one million consumers per
year with scientifically-sound and unbiased health information from
health professionals at the three partner universities. The service,
named "best health Web site" by Forbes.com, began in 1994 with a
$375,000 grant from TOP to UC.
"NetWellness would not have been
possible without the support of TOP," notes Roger Guard, assistant
senior vice president and chief information officer at the UC Medical
Center, who conceptualized the NetWellness program. "It is crucial that
TOP continue to catalyze programs that the private sector is not geared
for, but that provide so much value directly to the community."
about NetWellness show that the community values the service for
providing health information from university faculty who are leaders in
their field and because it guarantees confidentiality and personal
privacy. The popular "Ask an Expert" service has, to date, responded to
almost 19,000 questions on more than 45 topics.
enables us to help people better manage their health by translating our
nationally recognized expertise directly to those who need it," says
Donald Harrison, MD, senior vice president and provost of health
affairs for the UC Medical Center. "After the TOP program's initial
support, NetWellness grew rapidly to be a state-wide service in
collaboration with CWRU and OSU, Ohio's other biomedical research
universities. Without federal support, valuable programs like
NetWellness will never have the chance to flourish."
still a need for programs like TOP. While the digital divide has
narrowed, it has not closed," says Guard. "We are urging everyone who
has benefited from a TOP sponsored program, such as NetWellness, or who
understands the importance of continued federal support for such
community-level programs, to contact his or her congressman or senator
and voice concern over its proposed elimination."