Optimizing Communication Strategies for Reaching at Risk Somali, Latino/a/x, and Hmong Elders with Timely COVID-19 Information

illustration of graphs and coronavirus

Somali, Latino/a/x, and Hmong elders (age 60 years or older) are at increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, however they may have limited access to timely information related to the pandemic. Barriers include few language-appropriate media outlets, limited technological fluency, limited literacy for Somali and Hmong elders in their first language, limited cultural framing, misinformation, and distrust of some information. There is a need for trusted, evidence-based, up-to-date information.

“Clinics are familiar sources of health information that have the ability to deliver messages via phone or texts. However it is unknown which methods—text, phone call—are the most successful for reaching these elders or what delivery format—written, audio, video—they prefer,” said Michele Allen, MD, MS, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and director of the Medical School's Program in Health Disparities Research (PHDR) who is leading this study. “We believe that Somali, Latino/a/x, and Hmong elders will report satisfaction with clinic-delivered messages but may have differing preferences for methods to reach them and delivery format.”

In addition to Allen, researchers from Community University Health Care Center (CUHCC), SoLaHmo Partnership for Health and Wellness, WellShare International, Islamic Civic Society of America, and PHDR will partner to develop, disseminate, and evaluate methods and formats of communicating timely COVID-19 updates that are meaningful to each community.

“While COVID-19 information is available, most sources such as CDC and MDH intend to convey knowledge,” said Maiyia Kasouaher, PhD, of PHDR. “However, supporting protective health behaviors requires culturally-grounded strategies that draw from community assets and consider socio-environmental, behavioral, and contextual contributors. Given the orientation of these elder groups, we will develop messages that target elders and their communities, and that rely on community influencers.”

This study will:

  • Generate culturally-specific, brief, timely messages based on public health and community priorities for distribution to elders and their communities.
  • Use the CUHCC HIPAA-compliant platform TeleVox to disseminate six messages to Somali, Latino/a/x, and Hmong patients aged 18+ over two weeks. Messaging will be via phone audio message, or texts with written content or links to audio or video messaging.
  • Assess reach and elder and community response to message content and delivery.


This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.