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Coping with COVID 19: Health Risk Communication and Vulnerable Groups

Abstract: Objectives: This study sought to identify COVID 19 risk communication materials distributed in Jamaica to mitigate the effects of the disease outbreak. It also sought to explore the effects of health risk communication on vulnerable groups in the context of the pandemic. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted including a content analysis of health risk communications and in-depth interviews with 35 purposively selected elderly, physically disabled, persons with mental health disorders, representatives of government agencies, advocacy and service groups, and caregivers of the vulnerable. Axial coding was applied to data from the interviews and all data were analyzed using the constant comparison technique. Results: Twelve of the 141 COVID 19 risk communication messages directly targeted the vulnerable. All participants were aware of the relevant risk communication and largely complied. Barriers to messaging awareness and compliance included inappropriate message medium for the deaf and blind, rural location, lack of Internet service or digital devices, limited technology skills, and limited connection to agencies that serve the vulnerable. Conclusion: The vulnerable are at increased risk in times of crisis. Accessibility of targeted information was inadequate for universal access to health information and support for vulnerable persons regardless of location and vulnerability.
Keywords: COVID 19 / Vulnerable / Risk communication / Access / Equity

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