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Research and discuss examples of key features of a new media communication program intended to reach and engage vulnerable or underserved groups. Compare such features and program-specific factors to those discussed in this chapter.

 

 

from the chapter:

 

Reaching the Underserved with Integrated New Media Communication As previously noted, underserved and vulnerable populations are essential beneficiaries of the new media and other technological revolutions to address health disparities. As with all technological advances (including new treatment and prevention options), new media have the potential to help mitigate gaps in services and information that may lead to better health outcomes among disadvantaged groups. It definitely would be a failure of public health, health care, and, more in general, of community development, if those groups most in need of progress won’t benefit from it. As with all other group-specific communication, reaching the underserved with integrated new media communication starts with listening, building trust, and understanding current needs, preferences, and priorities of specific groups. Whether the new media intervention is engaging mothers from ethnic minorities, the elderly, or communities from low income countries or affected by social discrimination and stigma, or other vulnerable groups, all interventions should be grounded in a rigorous communication process and inspired by models for behavioral and social change. Formative research is crucial and should also include a comprehensive health literacy assessment and health issue–specific risk mapping, as well as rely on a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods (see Chapter Fourteen for more details) to uncover unknown insights into health and community development issues. Most important, no intervention should be designed without the participation and active engagement of representatives from vulnerable and underserved populations. In order to help bridge the digital divide and effectively reach the underserved, new media communication interventions need to focus on the following key factors and features, among others: • Integration of community voices in all phases of program planning, implementation, and evaluation as well as relevant and culture-friendly visual pieces, including the use of online and offline videos to motivate change and mobilize communities. For example, The Waiting Room , a documentary and social media project, features the storiesof patients and their families and friends who attend an overcrowded emergency room in Oakland, California. People in the waiting room speak about community, language barriers, family violence, chronic diseases, poverty, access to care, taking action, and many other relevant subjects in addressing health disparities ( The Waiting Room , 2012). The film has won several awards and is the central piece of screeningsand community outreach efforts throughout the United States ( The Waiting Room , 2012). • Community-specific role models and champions who are recognized by underserved communities. • Culture- and user-friendly selection of new media channels. For example, mobile technology is by far more common than Web. 2.0 in underserved and minority communities in the United States. Adults from underserved communities “use a much wider range of their cell phones’ capabilities,” with text messaging, for example, being used by “70% of all African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos vs. just over half of whites” (Smith, 2010). • Tailored risk-assessment tools and messages for change, which seek to showcase risk and health outcomes as they relate to family, generational, and group-specific facts and time periods. • Focus on increasing new media literacy via a variety of programs that use public libraries and other “usual suspect” kinds of contexts (for example, clinical settings) as key venues for training sessions and programs, and show, instead of telling, how to use new media. Integration of new media activities with community-based and other offline interventions. For example, in the research and issue assessment phase, focus groups including low literate and underserved groups could be turned into long-term support groups for interested participants, which could also include a social media component to spread their impact. Similarly, online communities can be connected to resources and local groups in relevant cities and neighborhoods. These and other key features of new media interventions may help expand new media reach to include vulnerable and underserved populations and realize the promise of this technological revolution as it relates to improved access to care, health outcomes, patient engagement, and management of chronic diseases, among many other actions, also within low-income and other disadvantaged settings.

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