OzSAGE today released scientific guidance on community partnerships for controlling COVID-19.
Many communities, including culturally and linguistically diverse communities, are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection because they are over-represented in essential, low paid work; live in larger, crowded, households; live in buildings with shared public spaces; or have few links to social supports. Many communities are also at higher risk of severe COVID-19 health outcomes due to pre-existing chronic health conditions or underlying health, social or economic risk factors. Examples includeAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability and/or chronic disease, people who are homeless, migrants, refugees and people living in closed settings such as long-term residential care facilities, mental health facilities, prisons and immigration detention centres.
“Acceptable, accessible and culturally safe interventions and public health messaging are critical to prevent ongoing outbreaks in at-risk individuals, communities, and groups“ said OzSAGE’s Dr Faeza Netfa
OzSAGE has recommended tackling structural and economic barriers to support the uptake of public health measures such as vaccination, testing and isolation and adherence to restrictions, by providing paid leave and financial support.
It also recommends implementing co-design partnerships between communities, public health practitioners and behavioural scientists to identify barriers and provide accessible, acceptable and culturally safe interventions. Professor Lisa Maher said “We believe that Australian expertise in co-design and community engagement should be leveraged to work with communities to identify and address the factors that influence behaviours that prevent or mitigate COVID-19 transmission.”
OzSAGE advises ensuring that communities are empowered and resourced to engage in co-designed interventions including vaccination.
“We need to identify specific groups and communities where vaccine uptake and other public health measures are sub-optimal and empower them.” Said A/Prof Holly Seale.
“Partnership with community are the essential foundation to successful COVID-19 control” said A/Prof Kamalini Lokuge, drawing on her global experience of Ebola and other outbreak control.
“The community is central and critical to the COVID response. It has been from the start, in following public health restrictions, getting tested and staying home if required. With the vaccine rollout, now more than ever we need community engagement and community partnerships to support everyone to get vaccinated and ensure that no group is left behind.” Professor Margaret Hellard.
Members of the OzSAGE Community Partnerships Working Group (in alphabetical order)
Professor Margaret Hellard
Associate Professor Kamalini Lokuge
Professor Lisa Maher
Dr Faeza S Kh Netfa
Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver
Associate Professor Holly Seale