Introduction by Croakey: In April 2020, 16 organisations wrote to federal, state and territory health ministers raising concerns that governments were failing to ensure Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CaLD) had tailored, culturally appropriate information about COVID-19.
Although governments subsequently addressed these concerns to some extent, researchers have identified significant areas for improvement in how governments respond to CaLD communities’ needs during such public health emergencies.
Their recommendations come from a study, published this week in BMC Public Health, involving 46 semi-structured telephone interviews, conducted between January and April 2021, with key stakeholders involved in delivering services and other social support to CaLD communities.
A key finding was the importance of “bottom-up” communication approaches, rather than top-down approaches that simply translate materials into different languages. Another key finding was the importance of ensuring flexible funding to support local organisations and community leaders in such work.
The researchers stressed the importance of “community ownership” of communications, with communities being engaged in the development and testing of messages, images and audio/visual materials.
“A bottom-up approach starts with understanding the targeted community, their information needs and what information/resources will satisfy these needs,” they said.
“This also means engaging different community actors, including the community, faith leaders, and those seen as trustworthy and relevant. However, these processes require funding to support the development and time of the people involved.”
The paper notes that it took until December 2020 until the Federal Health Department set up a COVID advisory committee focused on CaLD communities.
“Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need for a national advisory board to be created earlier in pandemics and large-scale emergencies to support meaningful partnerships and streamline the dissemination of communication and resources in a timely way,” the researchers said. “It could also have greater oversight into how funding is used to support communication efforts and signal to governments where barriers remain.”
In planning for future events, the researchers said consideration of CaLD communities must be incorporated into Commonwealth and state and territory preparations, with recognition for the diversity within and between communities.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been issues around the poor quality, delays in the materials available to communities, and conflicting messages,” they said. “There is an urgent need to capture these key lessons and use them to strengthen not only Australia’s pandemic response but that of other countries with diverse communities, to ensure that future responses are equitable, represented and appropriately resourced.”
Communications challenges and achievements were also much-discussed at the recent Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2022.
As well as presenting at #CDIC2022 and running a pre-conference workshop, one of the new study’s authors, Associate Professor Holly Seale, took charge of Croakey’s rotated, curated Twitter account @WePublicHealth to share news from the conference.
As you can see from the feature image above, Seale and her colleagues in the Collaboration on Social Science and Immunisation, also received the Public Health Association President’s Award.
Tweets by Holly Seale
Other tweets from #CDIC2022
See Croakey’s extensive archive of articles on health communications