This week, we explore how communication surrounding COVID-19 has affected specific minority populations in the United States.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color, and their lack of knowledge about the virus may be increasing that effect. In this research study, scholars determined that people with low education and income levels, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Blacks had limited exposure to information about the pandemic. Most affected were non-Hispanic Blacks with less than a high school degree, but non-Hispanic Black Americans were less knowledgeable about COVID-19 at every education level compared to non-Hispanic White Americans.
Additionally, where people live may be affecting their vulnerability to misinformation and therefore increasing their risk of COVID-19. In a study assessing pseudoscientific information on psychological well-being, researchers found that those who were able to discriminate between false information and true information were more likely to have higher levels of psychological well-being, but this was found mostly in rural residents. Individuals who live in urban areas, which include more people of color than rural areas, were more vulnerable to poorer mental health.
Beyond the information communicated about COVID-19 and its effects, research also shows that people’s perceptions of the vaccine differ by various demographic characteristics. In a national assessment of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, researchers found that vaccine hesitancy was highest among African Americans and Hispanics, suggesting that culturally competent communication messages addressing these groups’ concerns about the vaccine are imperative to increase vaccine uptake, especially because racial and ethnic minorities have the worst outcomes associated with COVID-19 infection.
In an experiment on message framing, researchers found that emphasizing the connection between China and COVID-19, instead of framing the virus neutrally, increased negative attitudes towards Asian Americans. It increased Americans’ general xenophobia and heightened beliefs that resources should be prioritized for Americans instead of immigrants.
In this article that raises awareness of ethical issues when communicating about COVID-19, scholars discuss four ethical issues that need to be considered. Specific to our topic this week, the scholars address the sociocultural and medical unintended consequences when communicating about the pandemic. They focus on increased inequity, stigmatization, ageism, and delayed medical care as ethical consequences. They conclude their article with recommendations for more effective and equitable communication strategies.