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Communicating Science on, to, and with Racial Minorities during Pandemics

From the book Race and Sociocultural Inclusion in Science Communication

  • John Noel Viana


The marginalisation experienced by racial/ethnic minorities during pandemics such as COVID-19 and SARS illustrates the importance of diversity and inclusion in science communication and public health. With the first cases of these pandemics reported in East Asia, epidemiologic and medical communication associating them with China led to racially motivated abuse and discrimination against individuals of Asian descent and appearance. Moreover, limited linguistically diverse and culturally sensitive health communication exacerbated infection rates, disease morbidity and mortality, and knowledge gaps already experienced by various culturally and linguistically diverse populations. This chapter explores scientific and medical communication during SARS in Canada and COVID-19 in Australia, two highly multicultural countries with significant Asian minority populations. It draws upon academic literature, media articles, and government reports to illustrate biases and gaps in scientific communication towards Asians and other minority ethnicities during these pandemics, and underscores how these have compounded the vulnerabilities they are already experiencing as a result of underlying health disparities and racist attitudes. It then advances the importance of communicating science to and with ethnic/racial minorities during pandemics to ensure effective and equitable outbreak control measures, discourage discrimination, and reduce mistrust in public health systems and interventions. Although communicating in multiple languages and accounting for diverse contexts and cultures are crucial, science communication during pandemics should go further and embrace a bidirectional approach wherein members of racial and ethnic minorities are empowered to co-create and lead communication efforts towards the communities of which they are part. Through democratising health communication and empowering underrepresented minority populations, we can start to address not just health disparities experienced by racial minorities but also issues of inclusivity, diversity, and representation in science communication.


COVID-19 pandemicracismethnic minoritiesdiversityinclusivity
© Bristol University Press 2023, excluding Chapter 12 © Tibisay Sankatsing Nava, Roxanne-Liana Francisca, Krista T. Oplaat, and Tadzio Bervoets
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