Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – August 24, 2020

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Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – August 24, 2020

Now that the earliest stages of COVID-19 have passed, it is important to assess the communication to the public about health risk. Although standards of crisis and risk communication are applicable (i.e., have an informed plan, tailor messages to the audience, use clear language, offer action items, consult multiple trusted sources, and use multiple communication venues), the COVID-19 pandemic provided numerous caveats to these standards (e.g., frame risk based on information known at the time, adjust for a shrinking attention span, counter the effect of online information). One of the biggest communication challenges included multiple messengers, many times lacking a unified message. Additionally, communicators learned of the need to be empathetic when communicating and to cut through the clutter of limited and inaccurate information. Public health communicators must:

  • Put a renewed emphasis on offering context and transparency around the issue
  • Communicate proactively based on the evolving nature of science
  • Compete, with emphasized authority, on social media channels
  • Encourage two-way conversations with the public to enhance transparency
  • Deliver a “bottom-line” narrative along with more sophisticated self-efficacy suggestions

Social Media Influence

In today’s world, health communications are no longer restricted to individual and organizational experts but instead are democratized through social media platforms’ popularity and functionality. Despite the increased presence of health-related content online, there has not been a consensus as to whether social media is more likely to jeopardize health through misinformation or enhance health through public health awareness. To help understand the function of social media, scholars have developed a novel framework to guide assessment: the SPHERE (Social media and Public Health Epidemic and REsponse) continuum. The model illustrates:

  • Potential functions of social media (i.e., contagion, disease control, inoculant, surveillance, treatment, vector)
  • Factors influencing social media roles (i.e., communication attributes, host attributes, pathogen/disease attributes)
  • Outcomes relevant to social media effects on public health (i.e., collateral, distal, intermediate, proximal)

Digital Content

U.S. Latinos are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To increase health equity, the national Salud America! Latino health equity program at the University of Texas Health San Antonio effectively applied its digital content curation model to increase exposure to culturally relevant and action-oriented information about COVID-19. This emerging public health communication strategy used a systematic process to create tailored online messages through the use of blog posts, podcasts, Tweetchats, and grassroot campaigns. This culturally relevant, awareness-raising, action-oriented messaging around the inequitable impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Latinos provided a flexible and effective way to communicate with an important subpopulation.

International COVID-19 Communication

This week, studies were released assessing the communication of COVID-19 in other parts of the world. Scholars assessed the message effectiveness of national television videos in India and determined that the messages were effective at communicating the intended message 79% of the time. In Germany, it was determined that the government used Instagram as a complementary tool to communicate health crisis information by adapting messages quickly and easily through its use of visuals to communicate in more understandable

|2020-08-24T08:01:49-04:00August 24th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|Comments Off on Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – August 24, 2020

About the Author: Maria Brann

Maria Brann
Dr. Maria Brann, PhD, MPH, is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and affiliate faculty with the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. She explores the integration of health, interpersonal, and gender communication. Her translational focus and mixed methods approach are woven throughout her health vulnerabilities research, which advocates for more effective communication to improve people’s health and safety. Her primary research interests focus on the study of women’s and ethical issues in health communication contexts and promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve personal and public health and safety. She researches communication at both the micro and macro levels and studies how communication influences relationships among individuals and with the social world.

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