Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – December 7, 2020

Home/Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – December 7, 2020

Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – December 7, 2020

Weekly Review: Communicating COVID-19 – December 7, 2020

Specific Messaging Strategies to Increase Preventive Behaviors

This week, the New York Times reported how effective health messages cannot simply focus on telling people what not to do, but they also must tell people what they can realistically do to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Drawing from the field of psychology, researchers recommend offering practical messaging that reduces risk while keeping in mind the social nature of humans. Specifically, they recommend to:

  • Avoid confined spaces without masks
  • Minimize time indoors
  • Engage in less risky behaviors like outdoor, socially distanced activities

Not only is it important to focus on realistic behaviors, but health communicators must also consider the language used in these messages. Research has found that by tweaking the language used, health and political leaders can reach multiple audiences, build trust, and change behaviors. For example, a national poll found that by using the following terms, Americans are more likely to adopt recommended precautions regardless of political affiliation:

  • “Pandemic” instead of “coronavirus”
  • “Stay-at-home-order” instead of “lockdown”
  • “Fact-based” instead of “science”
  • “Protocols” instead of “mandates”
  • “Face masks” instead of “facial coverings”

Additionally, a two-phase national survey found that emphasizing the benefits of protective behaviors such as mask-wearing and social distancing produces more desirable results than focusing on debunking misinformation.

Finally, a group of researchers reviewed previous literature to offer communication strategies for crafting an effective message to encourage vaccine uptake once available. They provide the following recommendations in this editorial:

  • FDA and pharmaceutical companies must be transparent
  • Local, state, and federal public health agencies must develop partnerships with civil rights groups, faith communities, civic groups, and media and communication firms
  • Health care providers and community leaders must be trained with effective talking points
  • Public health leaders must distribute fact sheets before vaccine availability
  • FDA, CDC, and others must acknowledge uncertainty and changing guidance
  • FDA, CDC, and others must monitor traditional and social media to promote accurate information
  • Public health agencies must effectively use role models for taking the vaccine
  • Health communicators must clearly communicate messages by considering health literacy and reading levels
|2020-12-07T09:11:22-05:00December 7th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|0 Comments

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.

Get Involved with Indiana CTSI