By: Isabelle Ho, Time for 9 Toolkit Team
The necessity of partnerships on local levels within minority communities, and communicating with leaders to create lasting and sustainable change.
In order to best aid all members of the community when it comes to COVID-19 response, it is crucial that partnerships and communications be as effective as possible. Seeing that this public health emergency has disproportionately affected socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and minority groups, the following recommendations are meant to address common shortcomings in pandemic response, emphasizing government collaboration with local organizations and leaders in order to best serve all facets of the community.
Create Relationships with Trusted Leaders in Minority Communities
When it comes to healthcare in the United States, minority communities are often disserviced, especially when it comes Black and Hispanic demographics. A long history of these shortcomings have made it difficult for many to place their trust and wellbeing in medical professionals. A Pew Research survey found that Black Americans are less likely to trust medical scientists and utilize experimental treatments or vaccines. As COVID-19 has disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color, it is crucial that these barriers be addressed to ensure that any type of pandemic response is effective when it comes to these vulnerable populations.
To accomplish this, local governments are advised by Time for 9 Toolkit to collaborate with trusted figures in minority communities. By engaging with community centers, religious groups, local shops, influencers, and similar organizations, accurate information regarding COVID-19 symptoms, safety precautions, and testing can be shared throughout the community and properly implemented. These relationships with reputable leaders and trusted voices of the community are vital in informing and protecting minority populations.
Prioritize third-party involvement and funding
In addition to encouraging community trust, local and state governments must work together to serve their communities. Allocation of essential resources can be supported by local government initiatives, startups, and fundraisers that aim to increase grants and other resources. By combining community and government assets, important elements in COVID-19 response, like testing, PPE, and vaccines will become more accessible to community members.
One successful instance of such a partnership is found between IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. and Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. By collaborating, testing capacity has quadrupled through the use of mobile laboratories, widespread swab and send testing sites, along with expanding the accessibility of walk-in testing to at-risk members of the community. All of these developments relied on the cooperation between the state government and the third-party laboratory. This same method can prove useful when it comes to other aspects of COVID-19 response, including vaccine distribution. Increasing involvement with similar third-party companies, organizations, and medical facilities will maximize the use of resources while allowing localities to take over where the healthcare system is limited.
Provide Understandable and Effective Communication Materials across Minority Populations
When it comes to minority demographics, a lack of communication has made it difficult for communities to effectively respond to and recover from COVID-19. These communication gaps bar the spread of proper prevention methods, adversely affecting the abilities of low-income and minority populations to defend against the virus. To overcome these limitations, local officials must be made aware of differences in educational levels, language barriers, cultural differences, and limited accessibility when it comes to communication about pandemic safety measures. Additionally, information regarding testing, preventative measures, and other important aspects of pandemic response should be relevant to specific areas.
For example, densely populated locations would require more than standard physical distancing information as it is more difficult in those crowded areas. Credible information must be distributed across a variety of platforms, ensuring comprehensible and effective communication. The use of visual aids, culturally relevant examples, and simplified instructions can help ensure that materials are useful to individuals with diverse backgrounds and differing levels of education. By working with local television, radio, and other media outlets that cater to different demographics within the community, governments are better able to address communication inequalities in minority populations.
Gramlich, J., & Funk, C. (2020, June 04). Black Americans face higher COVID-19 risks, are more hesitant to trust medical scientists, get vaccinated. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/06/04/Black-americans-face-higher-covid-19-risks-are-more-hesitant-to-trust-medical-scientists-get-vaccinated/
Mannino, G. (2020, June 08). State to quadruple COVID-19 testing capacity with expanded IDEXX partnership. Retrieved from https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/state-to-quadruple-covid-19-testing-capacity-with-expanded-idexx-partnership/97-646f9970-438e-4c5c-bbbe-20e32b972f96
Lin, L., Jung, M., McCloud, R., & Viswanath, K. (2014). Media Use and Communication Inequalities in a Public Health Emergency: A Case Study of 2009–2010 Pandemic Influenza A Virus Subtype H1N1 (4th ed., Vol. 129, pp. 49-55, Rep.). Public Health Reports. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/00333549141296S408