Decolonizing Risk Communication: Indigenous Responses to COVID-19 using Social Media

Keywords: American Indian and Alaska Native; AIAN; Native American; Indigenous; Coronavirus Disease 2019; COVID-19; pandemic; social media; risk communication; culturally adapted communication; Facebook; Tribal communities

Abstract

In this exploratory study, we examine how American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) governments and organizations are using social media to share critical health information about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with their citizens.  Through a thematic analysis of 119 public Facebook posts made by Tribal governments and organizations, we identified three broad categories and 13 subthemes. Tribal governments and organizations created risk communication material for their respective communities that fell under (1) risk reduction, (2) meeting community members’ needs, and (3) staying connected to community and culture.  Our findings suggest that through social media AIAN communities and organizations played a crucial role in disseminating reliable culturally adapted risk communication and vital community information to Tribal citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such communication included clear illustrations, posts and messages about the importance of masking up, social distancing and washing one’s hands; mandated border closures; and suggestions for maintaining a sense of connectedness with community.  By doing so they are filling a gap that ensures their communities receive the relevant information they need to mitigate and manage risks.  In order to understand how to better meet community needs, more work is needed to improve the wellbeing and visibility of AIAN people in the areas of health disparities, technology, social media, and the many impacts of COVID-19. 

Author Biographies

Nicole Kuhn, University of Washington

Current PhD student in the Information School

Shawon Sarkar, University of Washington

PhD student in the Information School

Lauren Alaine White, University of Michigan

PhD Student in the Joint Program for Social Work and Psychology

Josephine Hoy, University of Washington

PhD Student in Human Centered Design & Engineering

Celena McCray, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board

Project Coordinator - THRIVE & WA DOH Parenting Teens

Clarita Lefthand-Begay, University of Washington

Assistant Professor at the Information School

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Published
2020-11-03