Implementing caring life course theory for transformative healthcare: A focus on vulnerable populations and digital health

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The Caring Life Course Theory (CLCT) offers a comprehensive lens through which we can understand the life stages a person transitions through across their lifespan, taking into account structural, cultural, social, health, and temporal factors that influence care. Reimagining healthcare implementation from a CLCT perspective can influence healthcare practices, particularly within the realm of current digital health transformation.

In the context of CLCT, care encompasses a multidimensional system encapsulated within the fundamentals of care framework. This framework comprises 38 essential actions and needs within caregiving, addressing physical, psychosocial and relational requirements while considering contextual factors such as policies and legislative structures. Care moves across the life course, embedded within a socioeconomic and cultural fabric sustained by care networks; they are an interconnected web of formal and informal relationships that influence and provide care within a person's life course. From this perspective, effectively implementing CLCT in healthcare requires active participation from diverse stakeholders, including health consumers, communities, government bodies, industry leaders, advocates, educators and researchers.

Collaboration and co-design are the bases for improving health and wellbeing implementation and outcomes, particularly for individuals facing multiple impairments. To that end, integrating insights from the social sciences and implementation science allows us to navigate intricacies, understand human dynamics and effectively implement solutions. The most vivid example of this is the work developed with Frail, Homebound and Bedridden People in Australia (#FHBP); it is unlocking digital health's transformative potential for individuals whose physical limitations, health issues, psychosocial challenges and socio-functional constraints confine them to their homes.
Through evidence-based research and collaboration with advocates and consumers who serve as co-researchers, we have identified key areas to combat their marginalisation. These areas include enhancing healthcare practitioners' education, advocating for accessible legal services, implementing community care and strategically implementing technological solutions. Our evidence-based strategies and work with them and other groups are helping us to inform and implement change. In this process, the Caring Life Course Theory offers a valuable perspective that can reshape healthcare by recognising the importance of Fundamental Care, fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders and applying these principles within digital health initiatives, such as the FHBP Initiative. This transformation not only fosters inclusivity, accessibility and empowerment for all, but also allows us to understand care networks to ensure that individuals facing multiple impairments receive the care and support they deserve throughout their lives, with tangible and measurable outcomes.

Dr. Maria Alejandra Pinero de Plaza
Research Fellow, College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Flinders University
Adelaide, South Australia

Professor Alison Kitson
Vice-President and Executive Dean & Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor
College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Flinders University
Adelaide, South Australia
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Specialist publicationJBI Evidence Implementation's Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Population health
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Digital health
  • Caring Life Course Theory


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