Pandemic health emergencies require timely awareness by credible information and trust in the operational system to inform, instruct, promote protective behaviour, and dismantle rumours to mitigate the impact, particularly in the absence of a vaccine during this current COVID-19 situation. Various government and non-government organizations generated an overwhelming number of communication materials (infodemic) for diverse populations around pandemic related practices. However, access to and utility of communication materials have been limited for the vulnerable populations due to social determinants of health such as linguistic or technology barriers as well as trust on communicated messages.
A systematic review was conducted in June-September of 2020 adopting a scoping review framework and PRISMA-ScR model. Collecting primary data from conveniently selected relevant service providers or policy planners during the COVID-19 pandemic followed this. Social determinants of health as social marginalization and health-related complexities were found to be associated with the vulnerability of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key factors that were identified as determinants included socio-cultural attributes, language barrier, lack of trust towards public health interventions, structural and personal factors, and lack of equity-informed planning of communication strategies.
The findings from the study informed the design of an equity-informed communication preparedness and strategy framework, which meant a participatory and inclusive process of planning and implementing emergency risk communication materials that aimed at reducing the barriers and in turn reducing the vulnerability of subgroups. The preparedness plan anticipates the limitations of the communication materials from an end-user perspective and reinforces the desirable practices for prevention. The strategy suggests a mode of communication for reaching out to people who are at risk to ensure increased efficacy and creating a support system to access information and act upon the recommendations. This 360-degree-approach framework emphasized the active participation of the target audience from the beginning of the process of communication material design for the pandemic.