In the midst of a global pandemic and sometimes fraught vaccine rollout, our responsibility as PR and communications professionals is clear. We must apply an equity lens to every narrative we develop and intentionally ensure our stories are reaching all patients.
At RH Strategic, we have the opportunity to work with companies breaking down barriers to care for patients and improving health equity. We partner with community health plans delivering mobile healthcare services to rural communities, telehealth companies bringing top doctors to patients who would otherwise have no access to primary care, care management companies ensuring patients have resources like transportation to get to their appointment, and several others.
As we tell these stories, we recognize that there is distrust between communities of color and the healthcare system. This distrust stems from a dark history of injustice, such as the Tuskegee experiment, in which U.S. doctors told Black participants that they were receiving free healthcare and instead let the patients suffer for years, untreated from syphilis (a treatable disease). Today, this distrust in the system can be seen in Black patients’ hesitancy to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to a study conducted in December 2020, 40% of Black patients said they would not get the vaccine.
Public relations and communications are powerful tools to help break down mistrust in healthcare and ensure that minority communities receive the quality healthcare they need and deserve. Below are a few approaches to consider when developing a PR and communications plan with the goal of reaching out to and rebuilding trust with minority communities:
- Invite diverse perspectives and identify any hidden biases. When you are looking to share healthcare resources or information with communities of color, consider sharing your PR plan or materials with people of color to see if you might be missing a key piece of information, an important message or a channel that might be more effective to reach your target audience.
- Highlight leaders of color as spokespeople. Studies show that Black doctors can more effectively build trust with Black patients than non-Black doctors. Today, Black doctors are addressing misinformation, improving health equity and building trust with Black patients in communities across the country and on a national scale. Most recently, a group of 60 Black healthcare experts penned an opinion piece in The New York Times encouraging Black Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As PR pros, we should highlight Black expertise in healthcare across media relations campaigns, as well as video, social media and digital campaigns.
- Prioritize local media. Daily newspapers and newsletters, along with regional broadcast segments, are a great way to target specific communities with highly relevant and personalized information. For example, if you are looking to host a flu shot drive, consider working with an editor at a neighborhood paper to post the event on their social media pages and in their weekly newsletter.
- Create integrated marketing campaigns to elevate storytelling. In addition to engaging with media, consider the channels that would be most effective to reaching communities of color. For example, are there Facebook community groups where you can post resources? Or perhaps virtual events that you can sponsor? A panel you can host on healthcare information and health equity? Also, while considering a multi-channel approach, ensure all imagery and content features diversity.
These are just a few approaches to consider when looking to addressing misinformation and distrust in healthcare amongst minority communities. For more information on building trust in healthcare, check out our recent blog: “How Healthcare Can Rebuild a Critical Asset.”
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.