Experts in The School of the Arts and Communication conclude social media is being leveraged to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is a national emergency, and a team of internationally recognized health communication scholars in the Department of Communication Studies in theSchool of the Arts and Communication at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) has identified successful initiatives using social media.
TCNJ’s Department of Communication Studies currently ranks number one in New Jersey and received the 2013 National Communication Association Rex Mix Program of Excellence Award as the nation’s best undergraduate communication studies department. These TCNJ communication studies experts discovered five vital strategies that lead to effective outcomes: mobilize multiple social media platforms; enlist a wide range of cultural influencers; engage social media users with entertaining and interactive campaign messages and activities; communicate scientific facts about COVID-19 to reduce stigma; and showcase both Republicans and Democrats supporting vaccination.
In many countries, social media netizens and content providers are eager to cooperate with national leaders to encourage mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing. Dr. John C. Pollock, Professor of Communication Studies and Public Health, editor of forthcoming 2021 book “COVID-19 in International Media”, says, “New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern’s appearance on a Facebook app nightly in sweatshirt or pajamas to remind fellow Kiwis to practice safety precautions and ‘stay in bubbles’ is a powerful lesson for leaders everywhere.”
Pollock’s research uncovers comprehensive national polls finding that in order to de-politicize vaccination communication messages, reducing the association of health promotion with political partisanship is essential for saturated vaccination. He also notes many countries distribute widely song and dance videos promoting precautionary COVID-19 practices, suggesting the US should enlarge the number of participating musical leaders, beyond Dolly Parton or Columbia neurosurgeon Dr. Olajide Williams, who founded Hip Hop Public Health and animated features extolling the benefits of ‘community immunity’.
According to Dr. Yifeng Hu, Associate Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at TCNJ, author of a systematic review on health communication research in the digital age, “Health organizations such as WHO and CDC can combat COVID-19 vaccination misinformation by implementing engaging, interactive social media campaigns through a variety of entertaining digital communication strategies.”
“My research suggested that in earlier pandemic stages, one in five tweets contained elements of stigma communication,” says Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Public Health, Dr. Yachao Li, author of the article “Constructing and Communicating COVID-19 Stigma on Twitter.” Negative attitudes and discrimination toward front line workers can isolate and discourage people from seeking medical care or vaccines. Widespread distribution of engaging, accurate, and up-to-date information is essential to reduce pandemic stigma.
“I’m very proud of the way our school’s health communication scholars have employed their expertise to successfully address the most dangerous pandemic in modern memory”, says Dr. Maurice Hall, Dean of TCNJ School of the Arts and Communication.
The three health communication scholars on the international COVID-19 team teach in the School of the Arts and Communication, TCNJ’s interdisciplinary arts, performance, music, multimedia and communication studies branch. Proud to provide students with a top-tier liberal arts education, the School is an inclusive community of dedicated teaching professionals focused on preparing young minds to flourish as productive citizens in a complex world. Watch student films and music performances on ArtsComm DIGITAL, a brand-new digital platform by the School of the Arts and Communication.
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