Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid Response:

covid19: getting the message across to vulnerable populations

Dear Editor,

We would like to thank Razai et al (1) for their timely guide on how GPs should respond in light of covid-19. Given the evolving circumstances surrounding coronavirus, information and guidance for patients is constantly changing. Most general practices have now cancelled face-to-face appointments indefinitely and have encouraged telephone consultations instead. We as fourth-year medical students would like to share our views about how medical students together with doctors can provide accessible and accurate information for vulnerable populations using social media platforms.

As the government brings in tougher measures to contain the virus, such as shutting schools and general practices, as well as encouraging social distancing, many people will find themselves using social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as sources of health information and communication. This is particularly true for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, who may not speak English as their first language. It is a well-known phenomenon that there are ethnic health inequalities, in particular with BAME populations being less likely to engage with the NHS (3,4).

The internet works in a synergistic manner to provide ethnic communities a platform for them to express and share their cultural and religious values. This englobes health beliefs and consequently information about covid-19. Although the NHS has provided much accessible online information for the public, this may not always reach ethnic minority communities in the manner expected.

Alongside much of the population who is now working from home, medical students across the country have also been told to stay at home. Despite this, there is a generalised desire amongst many students to contribute, as we see health-care professionals around the country working hard and the NHS increasingly burdened. With more time on our hands, we believe there is a lot we can do even if we are not on the forefront of this pandemic.

Bearing this in mind, we have created a covid-19 infographic which can be shared on all the major social media platforms and most importantly has been translated to different languages targeting these vulnerable populations. We have included: Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese and Spanish.

The infographic provides clear and concise information on:
1. What to do if you or those you live with develop symptoms.
2. What the advice is for people in high-risk groups, such as those who have chronic diseases.
3. What the common misconceptions are and what the evidence currently suggests.

The internet can be a friend and a foe in times like this where misinformation spreads rapidly. Our hope is that amongst the uncertainty and fear, we are able to share accurate information about covid-19 to the communities who may otherwise not use official NHS platforms.

Below is a link that allows access to these infographics:

1. Razai Mohammad S, Doerholt Katja, Ladhani Shamez, Oakeshott Pippa. Coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19): a guide for UK GPs BMJ 2020; 368 :m800
2. Atkinson M, Clark M, Clay D, et al. Systematic review of ethnicity and health service access for London. Coventry: Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Warwick, 2001.
3. Szczepura A. Access to health care for ethnic minority populations. Postgrad Med J 2005; 81: 141–147

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 March 2020
Luamar Dolfini
Medical Student
Samar Babiker
St. Georges University of London