Health communication strategies must include considerations for how different communities receive health information—including who delivers it, and how it is delivered. This is especially important when communicating with vulnerable populations. In this section, we will take a closer look at key components of effective message delivery—things like trusted messengers and sources for information, the right communication vehicles, and the importance of social networks — all of which contribute to COVID-19 vaccine adoption.
Trust plays a major role in effective communication with a community.1Vanderpool, R. C., Gaysynsky, A., & Sylvia Chou, W. Y. (2020). Using a Global Pandemic as a Teachable Moment to Promote Vaccine Literacy and Build Resilience to Misinformation. American Journal of Public health, 110(S3), S284–S285. Oftentimes, health communication campaigns use government leaders as the spokesperson. For communities that are distrustful of the government, elected officials may not be the best choice to communicate health messages.
Tips for Selecting the Right Messenger
Identify Leaders who community members are likely to seek out for health information, such as:2Haldane, V., Chuah, F., Srivastava, A., Singh, S. R., Koh, G., Seng, C. K., & Legido-Quigley, H. (2019). Community participation in health services development, implementation, and evaluation: A systematic review of empowerment, health, community, and process outcomes. PloS one, 14(5), e0216112.
- Community Opinion Leaders, who have already established trusting relationships with their members such as faith leaders, community healthcare providers, and small business owners.3MacFarlane, D., Hurlstone, M. J., & Ecker, U. K. (2020). Protecting consumers from fraudulent health claims: A taxonomy of psychological drivers, interventions, barriers, and treatments. Social Science & Medicine, 259, 112790. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112790
- Frontline workers, who interact with community members every day and have developed trusted relationships can deliver the messages. They are in the places where community members most frequent such as health centers, churches, barbershops, beauty salons, community centers, senior centers, local pharmacies, bingo halls, and small community grocery stores. These can also be groups consisting of trusted lay community members who can share health information directly with their community. Because they are from the community, they understand local culture, beliefs, norms and values and can break through communication barriers such as language.2Schillinger, D., Chittamuru, D. & Ramírez, A.S. (2020). From “Infodemics” to Health Promotion: A Novel Framework for the Role of Social Media in Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 110(9), 1393-1396.
- Gatekeepers, who are respected community members that can control information that flows to the people that you want to reach. In different cultures a particular family member such as the abuela in the Latino community decides what information and health services should be accessed by the rest of the family, and even, whether or not family members should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Health communication efforts can focus on educating them on the COVID-19 vaccine. Health campaigns can also leverage these familial gatekeepers to assist in the formative evaluation of health messaging and communication strategies.4Quinn, S. C., & Andrasik, M. P. (2021). Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy in BIPOC Communities - Toward Trustworthiness, Partnership, and Reciprocity. The New England Journal of Medicine, 10.1056/NEJMp2103104.
There are diverse communities consisting of different race and ethnicities with their own cultural beliefs, values, social norms, and language, across counties, cities, and towns. Personal social networks and social support can play a major role in the dissemination of health information for large ethnic populations.5Kim, W.; Kreps, G.L. & Shin, Cha-nam (2015). The role of social support and social networks in health information-seeking behavior among Korean Americans: a qualitative study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 14(40), 1-10. It is important to consider the various preferences of a community for effective message delivery.
Tips for Selecting the Right Vehicle
Use the checklist below to identify where a particular community goes for health information. This will help you to prioritize channels for your communication. Consider digital literacy levels before focusing on a predominantly online campaign.
- Ethnic media
- Local news
- Online social networks
- Word of mouth
- Community newspapers
- Ethnic radio stations, information sheets in community’s primary language