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Three myths of disseminating COVID-19 information to vulnerable migrants in Japan: lessons learned during the pandemic 

Hiroyuki Kiyohara, Yuko Teshima, Haru Angelique Hoshino, Miwa Kanda, Sadatoshi Matsuoka, Azusa Iwamoto & Masami Fujita  

Tropical Medicine and Health volume 50, Article number: 13 (2022)


This paper discusses the challenges of disseminating COVID-19 information to migrant populations by sharing our trial-and-error approach. In 2018, the Migrants’ Neighbor Network & Action (MINNA), a consortium of individuals and organizations that addressed the issues of accessing relevant information and services for migrants in Japan, was launched. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the MINNA attempted to investigate and improve access to health information among Vietnamese, Nepali, and Burmese migrants in Japan. We had three assumptions in distribution of information to reach a large audience, such as building a multilingual website, requesting stakeholders to disseminate information, or posting on Facebook. None of our assumptions were sufficient to reach the target audience in the context of COVID-19, as total number of views that accessed our materials were less than 300 at most. We viewed these myths as the result of overlooking critical elements of effective communication strategies. Eventually, MINNA managed to establish communication with the manager of a Facebook page with the largest number of followers from the Vietnamese community in Japan. Compared with our previous attempts, the messages were delivered to a large audience on the Facebook page, such as the article on COVID-19 vaccines that was viewed more than 300,000 times. In public health emergencies, interactive process of information dissemination is necessary. It is a key component for risk communication and should be prioritized. Breakthroughs in communicating with a larger audience could be possible through partnerships with online communities.