10 Minute Genius: Holly Seale on communicating in a pandemic

It’s no secret Australia’s vaccine rollout had a rocky start… but now, 18 months later, our vaccination rate is amongst the highest in the world. 

But our impressive 80 per cent+ coverage doesn't tell the full story... 

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people from racial and ethnic minority groups in both infection rates and health outcomes, so it really matters that the right information can reach them. Some of the most interesting questions for social scientists are how the differences between people mean that we need different answers to the same health problems. Vaccine hesitancy can stem from misinformation, poor translations and lack of access to health resources, and when so many Australians are from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, it’s important the government tailors health messaging to suit a range of languages and literacy levels. 

A one size fits all approach has got us this far, but as the country slowly opens up, the vulnerable pockets with low vaccination rates should be a real concern to all of us. “It’s important that all levels of government listen to communities themselves,” infectious disease social scientist, Associate Professor Holly Seale, says. “Listening. Perhaps the hardest thing for any government to do.”

In less than ten minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes to get vaccinated against COVID, A/Prof. Seale will explain how we can achieve good health outcomes for everyone.

A/Prof. Seale is an infectious disease social scientist at the School of Population Health at UNSW Sydney. She has over 15 years of experience in undertaking social science research focused on improving confidence and engagement of different at-risk groups with immunisation and other prevention strategies. The social science and behavioural research that she leads focuses on promoting acceptance and uptake of immunisation while applying a “whole-of-life” lens. She works closely with local and state health departments to lobby for improved opportunities for vaccination, as well as to improve communication/promotion packages.She also uses social science to drive quality and safety improvements in the healthcare sector, domestically and internationally including in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Bangladesh.