TruthNotCOVID Campaign Launches with Community Website, Social Channels

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Dr. Debra Bogen, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department, today announced that a new campaign, developed by a Community Advisory Board and MEE Productions Inc., has launched. The “Spreading Truth, NOT COVID” initiative provides trusted, accurate information to communities. In addition to a website – www.TruthNotCOVID.org – the campaign also features a YouTube channel as well as social media channels including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“The work of the MEE Productions in collaboration with the Community Advisory Board is vital to our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our county, particularly in harder hit communities,” said Bogen. I deeply appreciate the grass roots, boots on the ground approach MEE took to develop the Toolkit and communication plan. I hope that the Toolkit will be widely used by community leaders and organizations to reach a broad and diverse audiences with these important messages, particularly the need to address vaccine hesitancy.”

MEE Productions Inc.is a leading expert in behavioral-health communications and has three decades of first-hand experience working on health disparities affecting underserved, under-resourced and marginalized communities across America. The organization prioritizes community engagement for its measurable impact on behavior change and health outcomes. Its community-participatory process creates lasting long-term connections that restore and build trust with those being served.

MEE began its process in late 2020 and included vaccination mistrust messages in its message development once vaccine approvals, rollout and availability became part of the mix. The group partnered with Rev. John Welch, a local faith leader and community activist, to help identify key community leaders to provide advice and input on message development. The six-member Community Advisory Board (CAB) includes:
· Dr. Yinka Aganga-Williams, Executive Director, AJAPO;
· Dr. Jerome Gloster, CEO, Primary Care Health Services, Inc.;
· Rev. Brenda J. Gregg, Founder and Executive Director, Project Destiny Inc.;
· Sara Rosso, Executive Director, Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation;
· Monica Ruiz, Executive Director, Casa San Jose; and,
· Dr. Taunya Tinsley, Di rector, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Counseling Center.

Recognizing that there is a lot mistrust and misinformation about COVID safety practices, testing and the availability of vaccines, the campaign focuses on providing authentic messages that address barriers and concerns from trusted community leaders, starting with the CAB members. The campaign call-to-action is “ Be Mindful, Be Vigilant, Beat COVID” and offers culturally-specific awareness, education and community-engagement that targets marginalized populations within the county including those who are African-American/Black, Latinx, Refugees/Immigrants, Non-Native English Speakers, and LGBTQ+.

A unique piece of the TrustNotCOVID campaign is a community toolkit which seeks to identify and engage other community-identified leaders to help carry the messages about COVID-19 safety measures, the need for testing, and the availability and benefits of the vaccine. Community leaders will receive training and technical assistance from MEE on how to push out effective messaging within their social/personal/professional networks, using a customized Digital Community Engagement Toolkit. This strategy allows trusted leaders to hold open and honest dialogue that will help people make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

MEE held listening sessions in communities across City of Pittsburgh neighborhoods including Beechview, Brookline, East Hills, East Liberty, Garfield, Hill District, Hill Top, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, North Side (including Northview Heights Housing Projects), and West End (Sheraden). County municipalities engaging with the team included Baldwin, Bethel Park, Braddock, Brentwood, Clairton, Duquesne, McKeesport, Moon, North Versailles, Penn Hills, Rankin, Tarentum, Turtle Creek, Whitehall and Wilkinsburg and Ambridge and Cranberry outside of the county.

The TruthNotCOVID effort is a nimble and flexible campaign that will allows reflection of changing circumstances and needs as the pandemic evolves. The initiative also allows for the building of community capacity to address other health disparities and underlying health conditions, even well beyond this pandemic.