Communications for better public health outcomes

A raging pandemic, high distrust in government, rampant misinformation, a fragmented health care system, the legitimate fears of people just wanting to do what’s best, meet new COVID-19 vaccines that could prevent severe illness and death. This was the challenge faced by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen in the months before and during the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. Fully committed to ensuring equitable access to vaccination, they saw the integration of communications with operations as the only way to build public acceptance and easy access for all. Tracy Zimmerman, the NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Policy and Communications during the pandemic and now Neimand Collaborative’s Vice President of Policy and Communications, relates the lessons learned in Communication is a Public Health Strategy, published by the North Carolina Medical Journal. If you want better public health outcomes, you must meet people where they are, engage in conversations to build trust and ensure that all have access to the means to be healthy. Easier said than done, but North Carolina did it.