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Over a series of three conversations, a group of practitioners and advocates of community-focussed health and community media are coming together to talk about the challenge of public health messages and information in Leicester. These discussions will explore how Leicester-based community health and communication practitioners have been making use of different media platforms, so that they can assist our often overlooked and under-represented communities.

Our question is:

  • How can we give the best care, guidance and information to all the residents of our city?

Our conversations consider what alternative forms of media we believe are making a difference locally. We look at what local approaches are being used that are distinct from the ‘assumption-driven’ national mass-media communications approaches. And our conversation will explore examples of local innovation and practice in community-focussed communications.

This is an opportunity to reflect on our experiences, and to consider what we’ve learnt during the pandemic. What makes a difference at a grassroots and neighbourhood level in Leicester.

Podcast One: Beyond Behaviourism

Our first discussion examines the challenge of community-focussed communication, compared with the mainstream approaches to public information. Many public authorities and government advisors have recommended using, what’s known as the behaviourist model, that seeks to ‘nudge’ people into behaving in specific and approved ways. In the behaviourist approach the focus is often placed on instructions and routine. The belief is that our behaviour can be changed with a simple nudge.

If a falling infection rate was the goal of behavioural communications, however, then in Leicester it didn’t seem to work very well. Leicester has had the longest continuous lockdown of anywhere in Europe, so clearly there are many lessons to be learnt.

Joining Rob Watson to examine how we can improve our public health communications is:

Mukesh Barot from Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire. Mukesh is the Chief Officer of Healthwatch Leicester, and has an extensive and varied background in local authority youth and community development, as well as arts and community services management across Leicester. Previously Mukesh worked with Arts Council England, where he promoted cultural diversity, education, lifelong learning and participatory arts.

Dr Charan Singh Johal from Kohinoor Radio. Charan is the Chief Executive of Kohinor Media, a community radio station based on St Saviour’s Road in Leicester. Kohinoor Radio was literally at the centre of the controversy reported about employment practices in many clothing factories in Leicester.

Dr Charlotte Hilton from Hilton Health Consultancy. Charlotte is a health and social care-related consultant, and a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). Charlotte is a Chartered Psychologist, and has a history of working within public health, primary care, clinical, community and mental health settings.

Podcast Two: Never Overlooking People

Our second conversation explores the causes and effect of media marginalisation. We asked why it is that some people are ignored and overlooked in mainstream media communications, both locally and nationally. Our conversation considered if media marginalisation is systematic and structural, for example in relation to access to platforms? Or, if marginalisation is a cultural problem founded on a lack of awareness and understanding leading to a lack of parity of representation?

It’s important that we understand and ask this question: was the lockdown here in Leicester exacerbated because of biased social assumptions? Or, was it exacerbated because of deeper rooted social inequalities? Whatever the reason, healthcare communications during the lockdown clearly failed to recognise the diverse communications needs of many people from different social backgrounds here in Leicester.

Race and ethnicity play a huge part in this, but so does class, faith, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, and many other social characteristics. In this conversation we wanted to consider if communications practitioners are doing enough to understand and address the concerns of people from groups that are regularly overlooked. Our immediate concern is to think through what can be done to change the dynamic of healthcare communications in Leicester?

Joining Rob Watson today are:

Sam Hunt, the daytime station manager of Leicester Community Radio.

Dr Marie Nugent, a Public Engagement manager with the University of Leicester.

Jal Kang, Managing Director at Shrinker UK, an online communications company.

Salim Khalifa (Kalifa), Director of Trade Sexual Health.

Podcast 3: Telling Our Own Stories

Our third conversation explores the role of community-focussed stories to overcome the challenges of public health education. We discuss how the use of community stories and personal testimony can be an effective way to support community trust and understanding on issues of public health.

The sharing of stories and testimony, associated with community media, is well-used around the world to raise awareness about public wellbeing and healthcare behaviours. Community stories are founded on shared community knowledge, and when they work well, they also become platforms for empowerment and inclusion.

Our conversation considered how local and tacit social experience can be adapted to better support healthcare information that addresses practical wellbeing needs. It also asked: how can we use positive and locally relevant stories to counter misinformation, build trust, and thereby facilitate better access to healthcare and social wellbeing services?

Can community-focussed and community-led storytelling and testimony make a difference? What do we need to do to facilitate these stories, and how do we do this accountably, and in a mutually supportive manner? If our aim is to enhance trust and awareness between all residents of Leicester, what is it that we need to do to make this work?

Joining Rob Watson are:

ZamZam Yusuf, who is an Action Research officer at Leicestershire Cares.

Sharmeen Suleman, who has worked in Research Governance and Public Health and has worked extensively in Community Radio and facilitates online communities.

John Coster is the Director of the Documentary Media Centre, and previously ran Citizen’s Eye, a community news agency based in Leicester.

Dr Indrani Lahiri, is Senior Lecturer in Media & Communication at De Montfort University. Indrani’s research focuses on digital media, society and politics.

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