MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Minneapolis is using trusted messengers and culturally-specific organizations and media as part of its strategy to reach communities of color with COVID-19 vaccine information.

One of the city’s partners is Insight News, a free weekly newspaper that’s reported news primarily for, and about, African Americans for nearly 50 years. Batala McFarlane is Insight’s publisher.

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“We are able to step in that place of trust and provide accurate information and also not be judgmental,” McFarlane said. “It’s a very good strategy to go straight to community.”

Minneapolis has paid a total of $30,000 this year to Insight, the Southeast Asian Diaspora Project, MIGIZI, Somali TV of Minnesota, Somali Community Resettlement Services and Navigate MN.

(credit: CBS)

The organizations help disseminate COVID-19 information, which can include infographics and videos in the appropriate languages. They also give the city feedback on specific questions and issues they’re hearing about in their respective communities.

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“Then we use that [feedback] to come up with nuanced messages to address those barriers,” said Rose Lindsay, Minneapolis’ deputy director of communications.

Vaccination rates among Minneapolis communities of color are improving month-to-month, but are not as high as health leaders would like.

Noya Woodrich, the deputy commissioner of the Minneapolis Health Department, says fewer than half of the city’s African Americans have gotten a shot.

“It really is about getting the information out there and having individual or small group conversations,” Woodrich said. “There are different avenues of communication in communities, and those are the venues that we want to access.”

The city also airs interviews and call-in shows with healthcare leaders on several cultural radio stations.

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Woodrich says Minneapolis has budgeted $500,000 by the end of next year for its COVID-19 messaging.

David Schuman