story by Homma Rafi
Director of Communications, School of Public Health
ATLANTA—The Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Georgia State University has teamed up with the city of Clarkston, Georgia to distribute multilanguage lawn signs on COVID-19 protections in high-pedestrian areas to help curb the spread of the disease.
Clarkston is home to a high population of refugees from more than 170 countries who have been resettled in the area for the past two decades. More than 60 different languages are spoken in the city. The lawn signs feature actionable messaging on how to protect oneself from the coronavirus in plain language, or for readers with limited English proficiency. The messaging was also translated in seven languages, including Burmese, Swahili and Arabic, to meet thecultural, linguistic and health literacy needs of the diverse community.
Dr. Iris Feinberg, associate director of the Adult Literacy Research Center in the College of Education & Human Development (CEHD), created the signs for the project.
“The best health messages are culturally appropriate, use plain language, are action oriented, and are informed by health literacy guidelines,” said Feinberg, director for dissemination and translation in the PRC.
According to research cited by the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., an estimated 90 million Americans, or 27.5% of the population, have low health literacy or skills such as reading, writing and calculating numbers, to maintain good health. Factors such as language, culture and socioeconomic status contribute to health literacy rates.
“If people have low health literacy and fundamentally do not understand the message, they can’t make informed choices to protect or improve their health,” Feinberg said. “That’s why low health literacy is known as the silent killer.”
Equipped with researchers in diverse medical and social sciences, including health literacy, behavioral science and migration studies, the PRC employs an interdisciplinary approach to address the health disparities and community needs of migrants and refugees in Clarkston. Since the onset of the pandemic, the research team, representing the School of Public Health, Perimeter College and CEHD, have introduced an online portal of COVID-19 resources and webinars in world languages, initiated research to study the health outcomes of the public health crisis on refugees and distributed vital health kits, containing hand sanitizer, masks and educational material on the coronavirus, to more than 5,500 households in Clarkston.
The center organized free coronavirus tests on Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus recently for members of the public. Administered by the Community Organization Relief Effort, the central location of the campus helped reach a wide audience, providing 543 tests for the community over three days.
“The City of Clarkston greatly appreciates and thanks the Prevention Research Center at Georgia State University for their ongoing work and collaboration in continuing to spread the positive reminder messages for all to wear a mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Robin Gomez, city manager for Clarkston. “Signs in various languages greatly assist our very diverse Clarkston communities to better understand and promote everyone’s safety.”
The collaboration will place the lawn signs in the city’s public areas, such as walkways and parks, into 2021.