Supporting Health Departments in Communicating About Equity During a Pandemic

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In 2020, PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) worked with local health departments across California to enhance their capacity to communicate effectively about COVID-19 to policymakers, the public, and California families and communities most at risk from COVID, with the aim of addressing racial and health inequities during the pandemic. 

In this project, BMSG worked closely with the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), the Public Health Alliance of Southern California (the Alliance), and the San Joaquin Valley Public Health Consortium (SJVPHC) to develop communication strategies and implement communication tactics. 

Through this process, BMSG supported the regional organizations and the local health departments and partners they work with to develop COVID related materials.

These tools include: 

Additionally, as public health funding and infrastructure are critical during COVID-19 and beyond, BMSG worked with the Alliance to develop talking points to accompany the Investing in Our Local Health Departments brief and collaborated on the statement When the Truth Becomes the Threat: Standing in Support of our Public Health Officials.

BMSG also worked with the regional organizations to gain media coverage in several news outlets, including several media stories and op-eds that strategically featured community-based organizations and coalitions. Some of the coverage included:

Additionally, as state eviction protections were complex, BMSG and its partners were concerned that many reporters’ news coverage was inaccurate and gave the public and elected officials the false impression that tenants across the state were protected from evictions. In fact, state policy at the time only allowed local jurisdictions to offer protections, but provided no requirement for eviction protections. 

To correct this misinformation and provide reporters with a broad range of community-based and equity-focused sources, BARHII, BMSG, and partners held an online reporter roundtable on “Bay area community stories on housing, health, and COVID-19.” The event featured speakers from BARHII, housing and tenant rights organizations, and legal services organizations in the North, South, and East Bay as well as San Francisco. Reporters from 15 local and national news outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times attended, and several Roundtable speakers were quoted in follow-up news stories. 

Based on this success, BMSG supported BARHII and its partners in developing a reporter roundtable on “A Black-Led COVID-19 Recovery,” with speakers from BARHII and organizations focused on education, Black business development and support, housing, youth organizing and leadership, police violence, ending discrimination in housing for people who have been incarcerated, and protecting Bay area transit workers from COVID-19. Reporters from 13 news outlets attended, generating the following coverage: 

BMSG also supported BARHII in developing and pitching op-eds on essential worker protections that were published in local news outlets, including: 

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