Ensuring culturally diverse communities aren’t left behind on the road out of COVID

“We are always engaged after there is a problem – never upfront. The damage that has been done is quite severe on the ground and there is a lot of feeling that this is racist”- Randa Kattan, CEO of the Arab Council Australia

Croakey published a comprehensive summary of the think tank workshop hosted by the UNSW School of Population Health and organised by my colleague A/Prof Holly Seale. It features some inspiring practical activities led by culturally diverse communities, and the findings of research from across Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

“This current pandemic again highlights that there is a critical need to ensure services, communication and efforts and other pandemic strategies are designed and delivered in a culturally responsive way,” she said. Seale stressed collaboration with people from CALD backgrounds, including refugee communities, was critical to improving future pandemic plans as well as continuing ongoing COVID-19 activities.

Engage and empower: ensuring culturally diverse communities aren’t left behind on the road out of COVID

CALD Community COVID-19 Think Tank: Enhancing engagement

Monday’s Think Tank, organised by A/Prof Holly Seale and the Multicultural Health Communication Service, was a big success. More than 80 people from four states participated in the webinar and workshop sessions.

Lots of issues were discussed, but some of the recurrent themes were:

  • The critical need for concise, timely, and accessible plain English information for multicultural communities, in order to enable official translations, but also so that commmunities can draw on ths information for ther own communication and messaging.
  • We need to be genuinely working with people and organisations who are already working with CALD communities, and who are trusted by them. In doing this we need to reduce the emphasis on “pushing out” messages, towards more genine dialogue.
  • Emphasise and reocgnise the strength of communities and work that has alrady been done. We also need to recognise that most of this has been voluntary and unpaid – and that resources are needed.
  • While there has been fantastic work done at local and regional levels, there is a still a need for coordination at state and Commonwealth levels.
  • Better information-sharing would reduce duplication of resources, but also enable capacity sharing (culural understanding and advice, translation, interpreting, etc).
  • Written information isn’t enough. Audio and video information is more shareable online, and helps to overcome the complexitiies of written information (too much is still written at a Grade 12 level, needs to be at a Grade 8 level).
  • Speed is critical to combat misinformation.

The next step will be to share a report and the videos from the event, as well as further coverage by Croakey. In the meantime, the tweets below show some of the research and resources that were shared,

https://twitter.com/gidget_abell/status/1439774060171251717?s=20

Still time to register for Monday’s webinar on Enhancing communication and engagement amongst people from CALD communities with public health strategies

There’s still time to register for this webinar organised by the NSW Multicultural Communication Service and UNSW:

Enhancing communication and engagement amongst people from CALD communities with public health strategies: Lessons learnt & gaps remaining

Mon, September 20, 2021, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST

Please note that the later workshops are now full, but people are very welcome to attend the webinar from 11am-12pm.

Teaching Heroes with Dr Joanna Winchester

It was such a delight to chat with Dr Joanna Winchester for her Teaching Heroes podcast.

We had a pretty wide-ranging discussion about health equity, how the COVID response could be exacerbating health inequities, vaccination for teachers, and how the return to classrooms might play out – including the role that HEPA filters might play.

We also briefly spoke about the early 20th-century movement for open-air schooling, and how some of these design ideas may make a comeback

Thanks Jo!

Now it gets more difficult

From the University of Melbourne’s Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker:

Vaccine hesitancy across Australia has fallen from 21.8% on 7th August to 20.3% on 20th August

This fall is concentrated amongst those who were previously unsure, with 8.6% unsure on 20th August compared to 9.8% two weeks earlier. The percentage unwilling to be vaccinated has not changed much in the past month

Vaccine hesitancy in NSW is still the lowest in Australia. However, hesitancy has increased slightly in NSW despite the continuing rise in cases of COVID-19, from 17.3% on 7th August to 18% on 20th August

In NSW over the last two weeks, more people are unwilling to be vaccinated (from 9.2% to 11.8%) and fewer are unsure (from 8.1% to 6.2%). Those who are unsure are more likely to be influenced by incentives. More information can be found in this Research Insight article

Source: Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker

As schools open up, could HEPA air filters play a role in making them safer?

Associate Professor Donna Green and I had a chance to speak with Cassie McCullagh on ABC Radio Sydney’s Focus about high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in schools, based on our earlier piece at The Conversation.

Cassie McCullagh – HEPA filters in schools – 1 September 2021 Download MP3

Interestingly, I noted that a US academic has also written for The Conversation US about HEPA filters in schools, and sums up some of the equity considerations and limitations quite well:

In-room HEPA filtration is a long-term investment that supplements existing ventilation systems. And though COVID-19 was the impetus for the installation of many HEPA filters, they are effective for far more than just reducing exposures to airborne viruses. Well-maintained and properly functioning filtration systems also reduce exposure to wildfire ash that can penetrate buildings, as well as allergens and other unwanted particles like automobile exhaust, tire detritus and construction dust. 

But even the best indoor HEPA filtration cannot guarantee protection from airborne respiratory threats in schools. HEPA filters are effective only as part of an integrated approach. Ultimately, masks, distancing and reducing the number of students packed into tight spaces will determine how well students are protected from COVID-19.

COVID-19 has spurred investments in air filtration for K-12 schools – but these technologies aren’t an instant fix

Who could have seen this?

An interesting post on Social behavior and the covid pandemic, but the last bit of this quote jumped out at me:

But here’s the thing: what 2010-era sociologist or political scientist would have predicted that a major global pandemic would occur in the next several decades, that an almost miraculous search for an effective vaccine would be successful in an amazingly short period — and that the pandemic and vaccine would become a political issue leading to mass refusal to vaccinate? All global epidemiologists believed the first proposition — that pandemic would occur sometime; some biological researchers thought that vaccine creation could advance quickly; but I can’t think of any respected political scientist or sociologist who would have predicted the massive movement that has emerged against vaccination and the politicization of the spread of the virus. 

Social behavior and the covid pandemic – Understanding Society

I can’t think of many social scientists working in vaccination who haven’t been thinking about this for at least a decade.

Twelve sounds better than 2.3 million

In the discussion about the twelve NSW local government “areas of concern” that are under tighter restrictions, I’ve noticed that the number of people affected is never mentioned. So I looked it up and there are more than 2.3 million people living in the twelve LGAs (table below).

About 1 in 10 people in Australia live in a NSW Local Government Areas of Concern, which means they’re under curfew and need permits to leave their LGAs

Local Government2019 population estimate
Bayside 170,089
Blacktown 357,479
Burwood 39,310
Campbelltown 164,508
Canterbury-Bankstown 368,045
Cumberland 231,443
Fairfield 208,468
Georges River 156,293
Liverpool 217,586
Parramatta 243,276
Strathfield 43,803
Penrith suburbs of Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair, St Marys~100,000
TOTAL 2,300,300

Chasing vaccine records

I was quoted in yesterday’s Herald in a piece about people whose COVID vaccination records have gone missing. I’ve been whingeing about this to anyone who’ll listen for the past few months. For a while, it seemed like the easiest thing would be to get another vacination. It’s good to hear that I’m not alone.

The issue seems to have been that the Immunisation Register doesn’t like hyphens or apostrophes in people’s names (seriously). Even if this only affects one percent of people, that’s 60,000 in NSW alone.

Anyway, the story was tweeted by Bill Shorten, which is a pretty good sign I’ve made a mistake by complaining about it.

I’ve made a terrible mistake.