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COMM Team Leads Web Convenings to Connect Research to Journalists and Practitioners, Identify New Research Priorities

On December 2 and December 10, 2021, our team convened audiences of journalists, communication professionals, researchers and advocates to learn about and discuss research findings. On December 2, the team led a discussion on Storytelling and the Social Safety Net, while the session on December 10 focused on Communicating about Race, Class, and Health Equity.

The objectives of both sessions were to share research on how media and messaging can build healthy and equitable communities, connect like-minded people from different fields who are interested in these topics, and collectively consider communication challenges and new research ideas.

With the support of expert facilitation from the Metropolitan Group as well as graphic recording by Rio Holaday, the events were successful. Post-webinar evaluations demonstrated that participants found the content useful, and the discussion generated many critical questions that must be tackled to guide a path forward in using communication and mass media to advance health equity.

Specifically, on the topic of Storytelling and the Social Safety Net, key discussion points emerged:

  • What messengers are most trusted, in the face of a changing media environment and polarization?
  • What are the best ways to tell stories about structural racism – and who are the best messengers to do so, especially considering structural racism within media institutions?
  • Future research generation will require changes to the research enterprise – including new training in a policy approach to health communication, and avoiding disciplinary silos.
  • Bringing health communication guidance into practice also requires generating new tools to make it useful, actionable, and digestible for communication practitioners and other end-users.

The discussion on Communication about Race, Class, and Health Equity was similarly generative and engaging. Participants discussed current and future challenges in communication about racial equity, including:

  • Concerns about whether to communicate explicitly about structural racism, recognizing that it is not yet clear what communication formats or stories are most effective and generate the least resistance;
  • A dramatically changing public discourse about racism following George Floyd’s murder, and reactions to this discourse, including backlash among politicians to critical race theory;
  • The need to conduct real time tracking and messaging to understand these shifting dynamics around communication about racism;
  • Engaging new audiences and messengers and considering what types of values and messaging strategies might bridge the large and growing divides among audiences.

Below are the graphical recordings of the presentations and discussions at both events. The COMM team looks forward to a new year of research and action to tackle these challenges.

“Storytelling and the Social Safety Net” presentation. Graphic recording by Rio Holaday.
“Storytelling and the Social Safety Net” discussion. Graphic recording by Rio Holaday.
“Communicating about Race, Class, and Health Equity” presentation. Graphic recording by Rio Holaday.
“Communicating about Race, Class, and Health Equity” discussion. Graphic recording by Rio Holaday.

Support for these webinars was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.

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