COVID-19 Testing Communications and Community Engagement Toolkit

Harvard Global Health Institute, Brown University School of Public Health and The Rockefeller Foundation launched a new resource for cities, states and community partners. This evidence-based, free Toolkit helps educate about the importance of Covid-19 testing and aims to increase participation in asymptomatic testing.  

To combat the rapid increases in Covid-19 infections and bring the pandemic back under control, the nation needs to perform millions of tests every day this fall and winter. Thanks to the arrival of millions of rapid point-of-care tests and other increases in testing capacity, cities and states can finally act on this urgent need, expand the scope of who they are testing, and screen more broadly for the virus. 

For this approach to work, however, Americans need to know why, when, and where they should get tested, and how they can readily participate in testing, even if they feel healthy. Public health departments and community organizations now have help in achieving this goal through the launch of the Covid-19 Testing Communications and Community Engagement Toolkit. The Toolkit is a free, public resource that equips anyone interested in communicating the importance of Covid-19 testing with resources to run motivating, clear campaigns that educate Americans about the ins-and-outs of coronavirus testing.

“To date, communications approaches have focused largely on encouraging testing of people who feel sick. There is a significant gap in public understanding of how healthy people can spread the virus, and in which situations to seek a test,” says Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “Testing delays and shortfalls also have created misconceptions about the availability of tests. And because of misinformation, there is a lack of public trust in testing as a crucial measure to suppress the virus and reduce death and suffering.” 

Produced jointly by the Brown School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, and developed with input from mayors and local leaders, the new Toolkit is a one-stop-shop, online resource, that offers guidance on campaigning best practices, easy-to-use practical tools, and a large library of ‘plug and play’ testing communication materials such as social media cards and posts, animations, newsletters, and handouts. Experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology, and supply chain collaborated with artists and expert communicators to create materials that are both accurate and engaging. Key messages have been translated into eight common languages spoken in the U.S.   

“The Toolkit helps people understand a key aspect of this pandemic: That you can pass along the virus without knowing you have it,” says Dr. Thomas Tsai, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and fellow at the Harvard Global Health Institute. “At least every second infection in this pandemic comes from someone who wasn’t sick when they infected others. So to stop this silent spread of the virus, we all need to know more about how testing works and when we should seek a test.” 

“This new resource takes the mystery out of Covid-19 testing and makes it a thing we all do at some point,” says Danielle Allen, director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and an expert reviewer of the Toolkit. “The politicization of this pandemic has made it difficult to know where to find trustworthy information; with this tool, trusted community messengers can help vulnerable communities get the knowledge they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

“Testing is becoming increasingly available and we need people to understand that taking a test, even if they don’t have symptoms, protects themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors,” says Eileen O’Connor, Senior Vice President of Communications, Policy, and Advocacy at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Most importantly, we can re-open our economy fully and safely if every person is routinely tested, isolates when positive, and wears a mask. This toolkit provides clear, consistent messages so that Americans understand the value of getting tested and other measures, even when they feel healthy.”