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Support non-profit public interest journalism
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@WePublicHealth2021
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#MHReform
#OutOfTheBox
#QldVotesHealth
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#ShiftingGearsSummit
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TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
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Mapping CroakeyGo
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Cultural determinants of health
Digital platforms
Elections and budgets
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Global health and climate change
2019-20 climate bushfire emergency
asylum seeker and refugee health
Climate emergency
disasters
Ebola
extreme weather events
flooding 2011
global health
NHS
NZ Election 2017
WHO
health
Healthcare and health reform
abortion
adverse events
aged care
allied health care
Australian Medical Association
cancer
cardiovascular disease
child health
Choosing Wisely
chronic diseases
co-payments
Cochrane Collaboration
complementary medicines
conflicts of interest
death and dying
diabetes
digital technology
disabilities
e-health
emergency departments and care
Equally Well
euthanasia
evidence-based issues
general practice
genetics
health & medical marketing
health and medical education
health and medical research
Health Care Homes
health ethics
health financing and costs
health reform
health regulation
health workforce
HIV/AIDS
hospitals
HRT
infectious diseases
influenza
international medical graduates
journal articles
LGBTIQ
medical marijuana
Medicare Locals
men's health
mental health
MyHospitals website
National Commission of Audit 2014
National Health Performance Authority
naturopathy
NDIS
NHMRC
non communicable diseases
nurses and nursing
oral health
organ transplants
out of pocket costs
pain
palliative care
paramedics
pathology
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
pharmaceutical industry
pharmacy
Pregnancy and childbirth
primary health care
Primary Health Networks
private health insurance
quality and safety of health care
rural and remote health
screening
sexual health
social media and healthcare
suicide
surgery
swine flu
telehealth
tests
TGA
trauma
women's health
youth health
Indigenous health
#CTG10
#NTRC
Acknowledgement
cultural safety
Indigenous education
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
WA community closures
News about Croakey
PIJ Commissions 2021
Public health and population health
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
air pollution
alcohol
consumer health matters
COVIDwrap
environmental health
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
food and nutrition
gambling
Government 2.0
gun control
health communications
health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
health inequalities
health literacy
human rights
illicit drugs
injuries
legal issues
marriage equality
Media Doctor Australia
media-related issues
nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
obesity
occupational health
physical activity
plain packaging
prevention
public health
public interest journalism
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sport
sugar tax
tobacco control
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vaccination
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COVID communications: what do we know? First in a series of rolling reports

To mark the solstice, Croakey is hosting our annual Twitter Festival #CroakeyREAD, with a focus this year on #CommunicatingCOVID.

Below we provide part one of a rolling wrap of the discussions, led by contributors to a new book, Communicating COVID-19: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by academics in South Africa and Australia, and to be published in coming months by Palgrave Macmillan.

The editors hope the book will be of use to communications and public health scholars, professional health communicators, journalists, public health officials, governments, and policymakers.

At Croakey, we hope the discussions will also be useful for community groups and health, disability and aged care service providers.


Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country

Megan Williams, Croakey Health Media, University of Sydney, @megbastard

Yiradhu marang g’day in #Wiradjuri.

I’m a visitor on #Gadigal land and on behalf of #CroakeyREAD acknowledge ancestors and spirits of this land. I acknowledge Elders of the past. Elders of the present. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who give to this #Country.

Several of us are tweeting on #CommunicatingCOVID for #CroakeyREAD #pijmatters #regulatedigitalplatforms #healthequity #globalhealth #COVID19Aus.

For those new to #CroakeyREAD and Croakey Health Media, we are an non-profit independent health media company for social justice (health care access, equity, rights, participation) covering news and stories of under-served populations.


Outline of #CommunicatingCOVID: the point of the book

Monique Lewis, Griffith University, @DrMoniqueLewis
Kate Holland, University of Canberra, @K_Holland18
Eliza Govender, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, @ElizaGovender

Thank you to @MegBastard and @croakeynews. We acknowledge the Traditional custodians of the Aboriginal lands that we are tweeting from – Bundjalung and Ngunnawal countries – unceded lands.

We offer our respect to their elders past and present and extend respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples joining us this afternoon/evening.

Thanks for having us here tonight @CroakeyNews. Last year we thought it was a good idea to bring together communication and other scholars to talk about communicating COVID.

My co-editors @ElizaGovender and @K_Holland18 didn’t realise we were witnessing what was to become the most profoundly communicated and mediatised health event in human history.

As health communications scholars, we felt a book that brought together an interdisciplinary range of scholars was needed. The book focuses on the earlier period of the pandemic, from its outbreak in early 2020 to the end of 2020 and into early 2021.

What was happening in other countries? How were governments responding? What was being communicated? What were people hearing? Did they have a voice in how public health measures were impacting them? Were their voices being listened to?

What was happening in other countries? How were governments responding? What was being communicated? What were people hearing? Did they have a voice in how public health measures were impacting them? Were their voices being listened to?

We envisaged: communications and public health scholars, professional health communicators, journalists, public health officials, governments, policymakers.

We started having regular Zoom meetings to discuss the book and share ideas about contributors, keen to invite scholars from a range of countries and perspectives so the book could speak to different experiences and approaches to the pandemic.

Our invitations were met with much enthusiasm and we are very excited to have such a diverse range of contributions!

Each country has a unique communicative story and experience. The book includes contributions from South Africa, Australia, India, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Scandinavia, the UK and US.

A special thank you to the inspiring @SusanKrennCCP, Executive Director @johnshopkinsCCP for writing the foreword to this book.

Authors’ diverse locations, including their diff experiences: extended lockdowns, devastating first and second waves that resulted in huge numbers of cases and deaths. Some authors even physically experienced SARS-CoV-2 infection first-hand.

The book has 18 chapters and is organised into three sections: News media at the coalface; Communicating the public health response; and Citizens, social media and digital technologies.

Section 1 examines the role of journalists and news media in constructing meanings about the pandemic, with chapters focusing on public interest journalism, health workers and imagined audiences in COVID-19 news.

Section 2 focuses on the public health response in different countries, with chapters examining community-driven approaches, communication strategies of governments and political leaders, public health advocacy and pandemic inequalities.

Section 2 offers insights into the needs, vulnerabilities and material realities of diverse communities that must be understood and addressed in efforts to communicate PH messages and facilitate community-led solutions to pandemic challenges.

Section 3 examines digital media and technology, with topics re social media sharing of misinformation and memetic humour, crowdsourcing initiatives, the use of data in modelling, tracking and tracing, and strategies for managing uncertainties.

We can’t ignore the importance of making meaningful and tireless efforts to improve communication knowledge and understanding in the pandemic context. This requires governments to value the role played by professional communicators and journalists.

Ironically, during the first year of the pandemic, the conservative government of Australia introduced a 113% fee hike for uni students studying humanities subjects that included communication and journalism. Not ‘job relevant’, apparently!

Strong, ethical leadership and teamwork is central to effective communication in a crisis, where the objective is to gain public trust that leads to behaviour change, self-regulation, and participation and engagement with PH recommendations. Vigilance to #SDOH are fundamental considerations in the public health response. Communication initiatives must be strategic and attentive to inclusivity, also bearing in mind that there are many whom mass media communication forms may not reach.

A strong need for partnerships between health authorities and trusted community organisations to support the provision and uptake of PH info that people perceive as credible and to reconstruct messages for cultural relevance and collective action.

The mobilisation of community led organisations as key partners with government structures ensures ongoing dialogue with and agency for people most severely impacted by COVID-19.

There are many countries whose experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic are not reflected in this collection and the chapters that are included capture a snapshot of a moment in time.

We hope the collection provides an impetus for further research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic, and the fallout from the structural inequities of the vaccination rollout.


The pandemic and public interest journalism – crisis, survival and rebirth?

Megan Williams, University of Sydney and Croakey Health Media, @megbastard

With sincere respect, I share this for #CroakeyREAD #CommunicatingCOVID because in it Kevin Gilbert, Wiradjuri author, artist and leader dates 1965 as a time he communicated outwardly via art. It speaks of sanctions placed on First Peoples too often excluded from being heard.

I first got involved with Croakey News via #JustJustice, a public interest journalism series, as an act of research translation.

I really am motivated by ex LNP QLD leader Lawrence Springborg who said to me, “It’s not me you need to convince about prison health service reform, it’s the voting public.”

So when LNP leader Lawrence Springborg seemed to indicate he would shirk his responsibilities for policy reform and wanted us researchers to become journalists that’s when public interest journalism came to mind. And now #CommunicatingCOVID brings us together like never before.

Our chapter in the book has case studies raising concerns about racial, social and economic injustice and the violation of human rights highlighting urgent need for measures to ensure a strong, sustainable public interest journalism sector.

Researchers out there, do consider adding public interest journalism to your plans for translation. Public interest journalism offers excellent partnerships and creative new ways of working e.g. with Croakey News, CroakeyVOICES, #CroakeyREAD, #JusticeCOVID and #CommunicatingCOVID.

Supporting innovation and development in non-profit journalism sector has such potential for communities’ rights to information and participation in democratic processes

COVID-19 exposes and exacerbates longstanding societal and structural weaknesses AND has brought about wider understanding of the important roles of public interest journalism, as an upstream determinant of health

Yes that’s what Laurence Springborg was getting at – the media as an upstream determinant of health. BUT politics a determinant too. Does journalism have the power of politicians?

I love irony. Except this one hurts. The crisis in funding for public interest journalism right when community relies on media for health information. Or #disinformation #pijmatters

Article here calling for global and local action to avoid media extinction, especially local media https://croakey.org/calling-for-action-global-and-local-to-avoid-media-extinction/

Read the article here.


COVID news reporting in Australia: topics, sources and imagined audiences

Monique Lewis, Griffith University, @DrMoniqueLewis

Kate Holland, University of Canberra, @K_Holland18

We are going to share with you some of our research into COVID news reporting in Australia. Important to note: we are aware that the news landscape has changed since we finished this study, and that vaccinations are now a huge topic!

Our chapter: ‘Mapping national news reports on COVID-19 in Australia: Topics, sources and imagined audiences’. We analyse news reporting in two Australian national news outlets: The Austn newspaper and ABC News online from 29 Feb-29 Aug 2020.

We wanted to focus on some particular things in these reports. 1) What were the key topics during this period? 2) Who were the main sources used in these reports? 3) Who were the ‘imagined audiences’ in these stories?

So ‘topics’ and ‘sources’ probably make perfect sense. But we should elaborate a little on ‘imagined audiences’ here, because it draws on the concept of what scholars @danielhallin and Charles Briggs call ‘models of biocommunicability’.

It sounds daunting but bear with us while we briefly explain ‘biocommunicability’.

The concept of biocommunicability draws attention to the performative power of health news in projecting how knowledge about a health phenomenon ‘emerges and circulates and who should attend to it and how’ (Briggs & Hallin 2016).

See Briggs’ & @danielchallin‘s 2016 book Making Health Public.

Models of biocommunicability also project assumptions and expectations about who are the rightful and authoritative producers of health knowledge and who are primarily its conduits or recipients.

With this as our starting point, one of the aims of our study was to examine how well these models align with news reporting of COVID-19.

The study’s timeframe – February to August – and how we went about identifying a manageable dataset of stories to analyse. For this we adopted a constructed week sampling approach.

We coded story topics and sources, with research assistance from the fabulous Griffith Uni PhD candidate, @mrgn_bttgg. We also coded for the presence of different models of biocommunicability, including any possible new models.

So, we wanted to map if the news report addressed its audience as either passive recipient of authoritative biomedical info, a patient-consumer in the health marketplace, or a politically astute citizen, engaged in the public sphere.

Each story was read and coded accordingly and our final dataset included 1,387 news reports; 954 reports from ABC News online, and 433 from The Australian’s general news pages.

The most frequent topic was the public health response to the pandemic, which constituted almost half of all reports (49%). This was the most frequent topic across both news outlets.

This public health response category included stories about both general and specific measures being taken in response to COVID-19. Border closures and social distancing were the most frequently discussed measures. #CommunicatingCOVID #CroakeyREAD

Note that we did not include vaccine development, trials and vaccination within this PH category but kept these separate. And vaccines were much less frequently discussed during our study’s timeframe (just 17 reports on ‘finding a vaccine’!).

The next most frequent? Pandemic impacts re specific events, different social groups and sectors. Also included impact on sports and sport events, travellers, workers, older people, as well as people in regional areas. 39% of all reports.

Reports re social and cultural impacts were followed by stories about the economic impact (22%) of mandates such as lockdowns, travel bans, and border closures on businesses and industry.

Job losses were also addressed under this overarching theme of economic impact. Cases and deaths from COVID were another prominent topic across the time period – 20% of all stories.

Sources from industry and the arts were followed by political and public health leaders from different state governments, notably, Premiers and Chief Health Officers.

Citizens were far from silent as a very broadly defined group, and as a collective their voices were heard across 22% of news reports. Citizens’ voices were more frequent in ABC News reports than The Australian.

Similar to the frequency of citizen sources, spokespeople from the Federal government were quoted or referenced in 21% of all news stories.

Expert voices from academia and research appeared in 14% of reports, most consistently arising from experts in the health field, followed by economics.

Many news reports (69%) carried a public sphere model, addressing audiences as politically astute citizens with an interest and stake in the public health measures being taken to address COVID-19, social and economic impacts, cases and deaths

Stories consider their audience as stakeholders who will judge the actions of political leaders and public health authorities.

State and federal governments and citizens were prominent sources in these stories but other actors also featured relatively frequently, including academics, police, chief health officers, NGOs, peak business bodies, media, and health workers.

This model predominated in reports about how citizens were responding, including resisting or complying with public health measures, such as social distancing, border closures, testing, and lockdowns.

Public sphere stories address audiences as citizen-spectators – informing them re controversies related to PH response, cases & deaths without appealing directly to audiences as citizens whose own actions have an important bearing on public health outcomes.

For the latter type of news report we noticed a newly emergent model as the ‘public health citizen’. This was the second most frequent model that we found (albeit substantially less common than the public sphere model).

Overall, articles with a public health citizen model significantly surpassed those stories conveying a biomedical authority or patient-consumer model of biocommunicability.

The biomedical authority model, which tends to address audiences as passive patients or recipients, was evident in only 8% of all news reports. And the patient-consumer model in only 5% of reports.

So what do we make of all of this? How to explain the prevalence of the public sphere model and the new public health citizen variant and the relative absence of the biomedical authority & patient-consumer models?

In the absence of a body of authoritative scientific knowledge about the virus during our study timeframe, the solutions available were taken from the public health rule-book which became the focused issue and supplied the sources for news media.

News stories were full of information about the public health response and these commonly employed a political style of reporting in which the stakes are not just about health and science, but are also social, economic, political & cultural.

We also observe that a patient-consumer model that invites audiences to act in their own self-interest and choose from a variety of health options available to them doesn’t really suit a pandemic.

Instead, we saw the emergence of what we describe as the implied public health citizen. Like public sphere reports, these stories were characterised by govt sources. These reports also tended to include police, citizen, and academic sources.

Stories addressing an imagined public health citizen appear to consider their audience as agents whose mobility and movements, self-surveillance and self-regulation, and very specific precautionary health behaviours will have an influence on minimising or contributing to spread.

The public health citizen is an engaged and active agent (like public sphere citizen) within social collective. There’s appeal to the collective, which has entire populations in its sights, rather than individuals as biomedical subjects.

It also summons a spirit of collectivity, stoicism, and solidarity – of the need to not just protect ‘our’ selves and ‘our’ families, but our communities, our states, and our country. This is quite starkly contrasted with a more biomedicalised perspective (Baum, 2016).

Our study is a snapshot of a sample of news reports about COVID-19 in two Australian news outlets during early in the pandemic and it is quite possible that different biocommunicable cartographies would be observed in other temporal, national, and cultural contexts!


Stay tuned for our next rolling post summarising the #CroakeyREAD discussions, and follow this Twitter list to stay in touch with the #CommunicatingCOVID participants.


See Croakey’s archive of stories about health communications.

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