Ensuring COVID-19 information is culturally appropriate

NAIDOC Week 2020

‘Always was, always will be’

To celebrate NAIDOC Week 2020, the Public Health Association of Australia is publishing a series of articles, capturing the learnings and lessons from presentations at our recent virtual Australian Public Health Conference. Given the year we have had, not surprisingly, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic dominated much of our 2020 conference. We hope you enjoy these articles which strongly focus on sharing information, building resilience and keeping First Nations people safe throughout the pandemic.


Ensuring COVID-19 information is culturally appropriate

One of the key learnings from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Australia was that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was not reached with important health information compared to the rest of the nation.

Sonny Green, Senior Human Research Ethics Officer with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) of NSW, said given Australia’s Indigenous communities were at higher risk of severe impacts from COVID-19 due to their ongoing experience of social and health inequities, extra effort was needed to keep them safe.

A big part of this was in sharing culturally appropriate information. This information was constantly changing; it could be daunting and confusing and often very complex.

Given people with lower literacy levels are often linked to poorer health outcomes, the challenge in communicating during the pandemic were substantial.

The AH&MRC created a cultural group involving Aboriginal members of staff to review all content being disseminated, to ensure it would be effective in reaching its target audience.

Many new resources have been created which are interesting, engaging and practical. These include a ‘Getting Your Home COVID ready’ platform should a family member contract coronavirus.

Sonny said as a result of this work, newly-developed communication resources were practical, accessible and provided sound public health advice to slow the spread of COVID-19.


Crowdsourcing communications

Darwin-based Michelle Dowden is CEO at One Disease which, under normal circumstances, provides on the ground support for remote communities in the Northern Territory.

With access to those communities restricted due to COVID -19, Michelle and her team varied their program design to be able to continue to meet the needs and to get important messages out.

An innovative crowdsourcing project was developed by tapping into ‘the collective intelligence in our networks, mainly local people.’

‘Using members of remote communities, including respected elders, videos were created to help share important messages about how to wash hands, social distancing, and not to shake hands.’

These engaging videos were shot in communities on mobile phones and according to Michelle they ‘switched the power dynamic.’

‘It is real. It is where people live,’ she said.

In a 4-5 week timeframe 18 different educational video clips were shot in different languages for the local communities and posted to Facebook. They were watched more than 75,000 times in total and all were produced at a minimal cost.

‘These short videos allowed the local communities to become active participants in the messaging which increased their engagement, loyalty and ownership,’ Michelle added.



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