This peer-reviewed commentary provides evidence-based strategies local health and civic leaders can use to communicate public health information in rural areas.
Local health and civic leaders are critically important in communicating risk and the importance of adopting prevention practices to limit the spread of COVID-19, especially to rural residents who may not perceive themselves at risk. Currently, rural areas are seeing fewer confirmed cases of the virus, which provides an opportunity to mitigate further spread into these areas. Based on previous research, the following communicative strategies are recommended:
- Contextualize risk and prevention: residents need to understand the message’s relevance to them
- Utilize community leaders: residents are more likely to trust local business and religious leaders than state and federal leaders
- Disseminate strengths-based messaging: residents have a strong sense of community and resilience that can be tapped into by focusing on how prevention efforts are helping the community
By using tailored strategies to effectively communicate risk and prevention practices, the potential to mitigate the spread of the virus in rural areas when the prevalence is still low can have a tremendous impact on decreasing the spread of COVID-19.