Populations at risk of COVID-19 infection are diverse and differ in COVID-19 literacy and social, behavioural, cultural and health practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been marked racial and ethnic disparities in rates of severe illness and death. As a result, how Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities were engaged during this public health crisis came into the spotlight with many organisations in Australia advocating for governments to ensure CaLD communities are not left behind in their understanding of COVID-19 and access to critical health information.
Associate Professor Holly Seale, infectious disease social scientist at the School of Population Health, has conducted research and community engagement activities to help Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic response with a focus on communication efforts with CaLD communities. In early 2021, A/Prof Seale conducted 60 in-depth interviews with key stakeholders who have an established and active role delivering services and other social support to CaLD communities in Australia including community and religious leaders.
Informed by these interviews, A/Prof Seale developed a glossary - plain language meanings to complex immunisation and vaccine development words and phrases - to enhance the understanding of key people within the multicultural sector such as directors of peak bodies, translators and interpreters, bilingual workers, and community leaders. A/Prof Seale brought together a team of experts working in vaccine development, in immunisation program and policy roles, as well as those whose work directly supports CaLD communities to help develop the glossary. As well as working with translators and communication experts, A/Prof Seale also tested the glossary using an online tool developed by the Sydney Health Literacy Lab.
“During the pandemic I had the opportunity to speak with stakeholders across the multicultural sector and hear their stories about working with their communities during the COVID pandemic. Adding another piece to the COVID response puzzle, I wanted to support the sector with these resources and enhance engagement with the COVID-19 vaccination program.”
Associate Professor Holly Seale
The glossary has now been translated into 29 languages and recently received funding from the Australian Government so it can be updated into an app-based version. Internationally, the glossary has been adopted for use in Nepal to support local COVID-19 vaccination efforts. A/Prof Seale has been a regular spokesperson in the media throughout the pandemic, including on communicating with CaLD communities,
A/Prof Seale is also developing online decision aids to support people who have decisional conflicts about the COVID-19 vaccines and is supporting efforts to launch these tools in five languages, focusing on communities with heightened levels of vaccine hesitancy. A/Prof has also adapted a two-hour training package, developed by the Collaboration on Social Science and Immunisation, to enhance the confidence and skills of those working within government and non-government organisations as well as community and religious leaders. She has also voluntarily delivered over 50 hours of training sessions during 2021 with those working in CALD community organisations/leaders/faith leaders, people working in the homeless sector, those working with people living with mental health issues, disability and HIV, including case workers, doctors and nurses.
The NSW Branch of the Public Health Association awarded A/Prof Seale the 2021 Public Health Impact Award for her outstanding contribution to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic and in recognition of her work developing a glossary and training program targeting people from diverse backgrounds.