According to focus groups recently conducted by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PdNHF), El Paso County residents need regionally specific and culturally sensitive information to help them reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“Many focus group participants indicated they have adopted CDC recommendations about hand-washing, face coverings and social distancing but said they needed more detailed recommendations on risk mitigation for multi-generational households and for people who must leave home each day to go to work,” said Dr. Theodore Cooper, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso who oversaw the focus groups and is assisting in integrating theory and science within the communication strategy.
“Younger participants who viewed themselves as less susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and dying from it, indicated an increased willingness to adopt and adhere to new, health-promoting protocols when they contemplated the impact doing so may have on older and high risk relatives who live with them.”
In coordination with El Paso County, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation is launching the “Reduce the Risk. For You. For Me.” campaign which will be guided by theory, science, and the focus group results. It will focus on areas outside of the City of El Paso but within El Paso County including unincorporated areas and outlying municipalities.
“This research utilizes the widely-accepted Health Belief Model to understand how people’s perceptions about risk, severity, benefits, barriers and self-efficacy inform the actions they take,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, Vice President of Programs at the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.
“By focusing our efforts on the gaps which exist in the community’s understanding, this campaign hopes to meaningfully help the community navigate the pandemic and adjacent negative effects including flu, housing insecurity and barriers to accessing other social services.”
Other participants in the campaign include the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center and Texas A&M University’s Colonias Program. Though UTEP and Texas A&M, trained community health workers, also called promotoras, are conducting socially-distanced in-person information sessions in hard-hit neighborhoods in East and West El Paso County.
While promotoras represent a high-impact but low-tech approach, the campaign is also using geographically targeted social media and digital ads to broaden its reach.
Information being provided by promotoras is available for download at ReducetheRisk915.org and ReduceElRiesgo915.org. Focus group findings are also available by request.
PDNHF has also convened a COVID-19 Cross Sector Collaborative with representatives from University Medical Center of El Paso, El Paso Children’s, The Hospitals of Providence, Las Palmas/Del Sol Medical Center, Emergence Health Network, non-profit organizations, the City of El Paso, several outlying communities and even the Lower Valley Water District which will begin including campaign messaging in bills sent to tens of thousands of customers in East El Paso County.