5. Cultural safety and responsiveness
Public health approaches and messaging needs to be appropriate and sensitive to local contexts.
Communities need health messaging that draws on cultural strengths to increase trust and access to services, such as the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations quickly mobilised to take control of the local response to Covid-19.
6. Commitment to equity and human rights
Covid-19 has not had the same impact on everyone. Many people, including Aboriginal and refugee communities, are affected by historical and inter-generational trauma, racism, and ongoing socio-economic deprivation.
These things can be exacerbated in this current crisis. We must address the socio-cultural determinants that can impact people’s health, such as insecure work and housing, and focus on equity.
7. Good communication
Crisis communication principles say messages are most likely to be effective when they are clear, credible and interactive, shared consistently, and targeted to community groups.
The public may feel the need to seek information to manage their anxiety, but distressing content can also increase their feelings of stress, confusion, and a lack of control, impacting their ability to take action.
The media play a critical role here. Accessing trustworthy, reliable information through these channels is important so people know what action to take and where they can go for help.
8. Positive leadership
Good governance helps us feel safe. It’s important for the government to be highly visible, provide regular updates and practical support, and help people understand and manage feelings of stress.
But we don’t just need leadership from politicians and officials. Local leaders also need to support their communities to process fear, grief and loss, and to help people understand the crisis will pass and there is hope.
Individual and community empowerment comes from having choice, voice, and control. This promotes the confidence to respond to an emergency, as well as resilience, hope and the ability to cope.
Communities that are empowered to play an active role in disaster response actually recover better, with lower rates of post-traumatic stress. However, communities must be adequately resourced to do this.
10. Holistic support
We need big responses that address health and safety, social and emotional well-being, community connectivity and cultural responsiveness to improve quality of life, relationships and social functioning.
However, effective emergency responses must be embedded in well-functioning social systems, including emergency social and economic support and high-quality healthcare services everyone can access when needed.
This pandemic is far from over and there is now a race to vaccinate communities that have been left behind. A trauma-informed public health emergency response is possible. And with cases due to rise just as the winter months arrive, we need one now.