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Effective communication is essential

A communications strategy that carefully considers the cultural and linguistic needs of refugees, immigrants and migrants (RIM) is essential to any public health effort. Learn how to define your audience, leverage traditional and social media, crowd source videos and refine your messages so they not only reach the communities you serve, but remain memorable and effective.

Promising Practices are strategies, approaches, or programs that have anecdotally shown to have a positive impact in some local settings, however, there is not yet enough research-based evidence to certify as a best practice.

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Integrating COVID-19 into Health Promotion and Non-Health Activities

As the pandemic reaches three years, the public has wearied of COVID-19 and may not feel motivated to engage with important health messaging. At the same time, without proper precautions COVID-19 can still cause significant illness and even death. To continue engaging people, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has adapted its approach to discussing COVID-19 with clients by mainstreaming the conversation and inserting it into contextually appropriate conversation entry points.

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Working Toward Equitable Language Access

For many refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) community members, navigating the complex U.S. healthcare system is challenging, even in normal times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, existing inequities in health and access to health care have been compounded by inadequate or insufficient COVID-19 information in languages other than English. To keep RIM communities safe, it is vitally important to convey information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines that is not only timely, accurate and accessible, but also culturally and linguistically relevant.

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Bringing COVID-19 Resources to Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers face significant COVID-19 exposure risks due to the nature of their jobs and workplaces. As a result, they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. As of August 2022, there were approximately 4 million COVID-19 cases among agricultural workers. Organizations have reported successful outcomes in reducing cases by making COVID-19 resources available to agricultural workers on site and in the workers’ languages. 

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Language Access and Content Validation

The availability of accurate COVID-19 information that is culturally and linguistically relevant is essential to keeping communities safe. Health messages sometimes change rapidly and organizations may face challenges developing health messaging that reaches all communities, particularly refugees, immigrants, and migrants.

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Motivational Interviewing

Building vaccine confidence takes time and trust. Client-facing staff and others working directly with community members seeking to dispel fear, misinformation, and disinformation will usually need to engage and explore people's hesitancy before sharing accurate information. One helpful way to do this is using some of the techniques found in Motivational Interviewing.

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Messaging to Reduce Risk in Areas with Lower Vaccination Rates

COVID-19 messaging changes rapidly and some health departments may face challenges with developing health messaging that reaches all communities. In areas with lower vaccination rates and among populations with a degree of vaccine hesitancy, it is vitally important to promote a layered approach to risk mitigation. 

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Partnering with Social Media Influencers

Social media is a primary source of information for much of the US public, especially youth and young adults. Organizations that are unable to utilize social media to engage with the community can result in a trusted and known presence being absent from this important space, allowing myths, misinformation and disinformation to spread without competition. A solution that can help LHDs and CBOs reach RIM communities through social media, while saving time and effort, is leveraging existing social media influencers.

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Hyperlocal Videos of City and State COVID-19 Updates

It is vital that linguistically and culturally appropriate messaging created by and from the community is accessible. These informal videos respond to RIM communities’ expressed concerns while disseminating major local and regional updates from city and state officials.

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Videos to Document and Share Vaccine Experiences Among Community Members

Ensuring access to accurate vaccine facts and information about vaccination sites and the process is critical for RIM community members to overcome misconceptions and barriers in access to COVID-19 vaccines. RIM community members are recording their experiences navigating vaccination sites and receiving the vaccination. Sharing these real experiences allows the RIM community to see what they can expect when visiting a site, which can ease mistrust or confusion.

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Staff Testimonials to Normalize Vaccine Experiences

Public health departments, resettlement agencies, ethnic-based community organizations, community-based organizations and others working with refugee, immigrant and migrant (RIM) communities can help overcome misinformation and disinformation by creating their own staff testimonial videos. It can be particularly helpful when vaccinated staff are also multilingual and from RIM communities.

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Using Storytelling to Increase Vaccine Confidence

The availability of accurate COVID-19 information that is culturally- and linguistically relevant is essential to keeping communities safe. Use testimonials that portray real stories from community members to communicate trusted information and make positive behavior changes.

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Phone Trees to Facilitate Vaccine Access

To respond effectively to COVID-19 and to longstanding health inequities made worse by the pandemic, it is essential to leverage community strengths and trusted community networks. Phone trees are one strategy to disseminate important public health information during the pandemic.

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Initiating the COVID-19 Vaccine Conversation through Flyers

Dispelling myths and alleviating apprehensions around vaccination requires a trusted relationship and a safe, non-judgmental environment for individuals to voice their concerns and ask questions. Initiating COVID-19 vaccine conversations through flyers is a creative way to use a traditional communication method.

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Multilingual COVID-19 Vaccine Education Workshops

COVID-19 vaccine education workshops, facilitated in a language the community member understands, increases trust, and helps RIM community members make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and their communities.

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Community-Led Hotlines

COVID-19 hotlines, organized by volunteers and health providers who are members of or work in RIM communities, provide a forum for patients’ families to seek information and communicate more effectively with their health providers. 

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COVID Champions: Trusted Faith Leaders

A COVID-19 Champion is someone who helps disseminate accurate information on public health and safety, local support services, and their own experiences relating to COVID-19 to specific communities, including related to COVID-19 vaccines.

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Culturally Specific Vaccine Information Broadcasts

By partnering with media outlets that are trusted in the community, vaccine messages can be culturally tailored and address unique concerns.

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WhatsApp to Reach and Engage RIM Communities

WhatsApp is a popular social messaging tool for many communities, including refugees, immigrants, and migrants and can be a powerful tool to reach and engage communities. 

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Cultural Navigators to Liaise Between Communities and Public Health

A promising practice is to work with community-based organizations (CBOs) to seek out trusted partners to serve as “cultural navigators.” These cultural navigators support the response, spread messaging and join public health interviews but do not serve as case investigators.

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Community Movie Night + Information Exchange

Health departments are partnering with community-based organizations (CBO) to host outdoor movie nights in apartment complexes where members of refugee, immigrant, and migrant communities live. During intermissions or after the movie, PSAs developed by the CBO or health department are shared. 

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Facebook Videos to Engage Communities

The use of Facebook to share informational videos about COVID-19 among RIM communities and/or to deliver live content through the Facebook Live feature are promising practices for reaching RIM communities. 

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Community Testimonials for Health Messaging

Testimonials are powerful tools to portray real stories from community members. 

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Community Contractors for Health Messaging

Community-based organizations (CBOs) and diverse media vendors provide culturally and linguistically appropriate guidance using a community contractor model of partnership. Select this promising practice to learn more about creating trusted, timely and, and culturally-relevant health information.

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Translated Materials Library (NRC-RIM)
A growing collection of publicly available health communications materials related to COVID-19 exist in multiple languages.

Guide: Communicating with Diverse Communities During COVID (UMN)
This communications toolkit for the COVID-19 crisis identifies resources and methods from institutions and community-based organizations to inform individuals from diverse communities of testing and vaccination opportunities. 

COVID-19 Accessible Materials and Culturally Relevant Messages for Individuals with Disabilities Project (Georgia Tech) 
This resource contains adapted and accessible versions of CDC's COVID-19 guidance, including materials in Braille, American Sign Language, simplified text, and other alternative formats to people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. 

COVID Social Media Toolkit (CDC)
Find social media ready COVID-19 content on a variety of topics to help you successfully communicate with your audiences. Available in Spanish and English.

Communication Toolkit for Migrants, Refugees, and Other Limited-English-Proficient Populations (CDC)
CDC created this communication toolkit to help public health professionals, health departments, community organizations, and healthcare systems and providers reach populations who may need COVID-19 prevention messaging in their native languages. Print and audiovisual resources are available.

Anti-Stigma COVID Social Media ToolKit (King County, WA)
This toolkit from King County, Washington,  provides high resolution images in PDF and PNG formats to help interrupt stigma and reduce bias as it relates to coronavirus. These images are intended for use on social media, and are currently sized for Instagram. However, feel free to repurpose them for other communications channels