Contact tracing is a vitally important tool for reducing the spread of Covid-19, but it has to be communicated properly to communities in order for it to work, according to the global health organization Vital Strategies, led by former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
“Those who are 50+ and from racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected; hence, it is key that the appropriate communication channels and message delivery are adopted for successful community engagement with these demographics,” the Contact Tracing Community Messaging Toolkit says.
Vital Strategies published the toolkit on Thursday after carrying out 12 sets of focus group interviews, where 88 people participated in the research for the report. The groups were comprised of English- and Spanish-speaking Black and Latinx immigrants in New York City and Philadelphia.
“Focus group research revealed that while trust in national government is low, there is an opportunity to imbue trust with local communities by engaging people through local community members and community organizations in contact tracing efforts,” the toolkit says.
The toolkit highlights the need for trusted messengers, local messaging and media planning in order to have successful contact tracing in these communities.
The main three sources of information and communication mentioned by focus group participants were community-based organizations, word of mouth and government websites.
There is a lack of trust in government, “primarily due to political and racial tensions, long-standing systemic health and, and social inequities facing ethnic minority groups,” but many of the focus group participants indicated that they trusted information from community health centers, primary doctors, local health departments and the CDC.
This is why people who are communicating the information about contact tracing must be trusted and respected in the communities.
The way messages are delivered is also important, with different groups and different ages preferring varying modes of communication, ranging from text messages to newspapers.
Messaging also has to be local. It has to be relatable to those who campaigns are trying to reach, and take language considerations into account.
Media buying, when it comes to spreading information about contact tracing, must be audience-focused – so that it is able to reach all audiences and hard-to-reach groups directly.
The toolkit also details the Be The One campaign, which is a “concept that centers the individual’s participation in contact tracing as the key to helping their communities.”
Be The One was the concept that resonated most with the focus groups, according to the toolkit’s news release, “as it centers on the individual's participation in contact tracing as the key to helping their communities.
While the toolkit was developed with contact tracing in mind, it can also be used to support other public health and social measures, Vital Strategies said.