case study

Upham's Corner Health Center

Serving an underserved community during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Client

Uphams Corner Health Center 50th anniversary logo

Upham’s Corner Health Center is a community health center that offers complete medical, eye, dental, home and elder care services to the residents of the Dorchester section of Boston and surrounding neighborhoods, many of whom are immigrants and people of color. 

In late-2020, in order to provide relief and additional resources to its patients, community members, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Upham’s needed a communications plan to support the rollout of the long-awaited vaccines.

Step 1: Getting Staff on Board

We first needed to inform and encourage staff members to get the vaccine so they in turn could become effective patient advocates. Internal communications included:
  • Regular emails from the CEO and Chief Medical Officer with information from trusted sources.
  • An organization-wide webinar.
  • Talking points for managers for one-on-one conversations with hesitant staff.

Staff members even shared photos of themselves receiving their vaccine doses and personal quotes to inspire confidence among their colleagues.
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Covid-19 Tests
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Covid-19 Vaccine Doses

Step 2: Existing Patients

After front-line health care workers, we sought to reach eligible patients, especially older adults and patients with underlying health risks:

  • Direct marketing to existing patients via phone, text, email, and mail. 
  • Printed flyers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese.
  • Testimonial videos in multiple languages.
  • An informational video with FAQs and a vaccination demonstration.
  • Landing pages with vaccine information.
  • Photos and videos on social media channels.
Doctor giving a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient in an examination room
Play Video

It was crucial to be mindful of cultural sensitivities. We offered the most accurate and clearest information and encouragement, but at all times we strived to remain respectful and let patients make their own informed decisions.

Step 3: Neighbors & Community Members

At the beginning of April 2021, Upham’s moved its vaccination operations to the historic Strand Theatre in Dorchester. Not only did this offer larger space, but it was done in partnership with the City of Boston (which owns the Strand), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and medics from the Massachusetts National Guard. 

To promote the effort, we created a unique visual brand to use across marketing channels, including multilingual community posters, website and social media updates, and location banners and signage, as well as swag bags and staff t-shirts. Many of these included QR codes for quick access to the latest information.

Colorful banner that says, "Together, we can help keep each other safe" in five languages

Paid advertising and mass media outreach reached several local media outlets, including NPR affiliate WBUR, community newspaper The Dorchester Reporter, and local ABC affiliate WCVB-TV.

WCVB-TV newscaster Doug Meehan at the Strand Theater
Play Video

Local elected officials, including a City Council member and the State Representative, visited the site to receive their vaccinations.

COVID-19 vaccine poster with text in five languagesAlong the way, we also enlisted staff in generating content, with tips on how to shoot photos that offered context, e.g., rather than simply showing posters in windows of local businesses, include the business name and employees in the image as well. 

Speed was of the utmost importance; photographs and videos taken by staff members on their phones might lack the polish of work by professional photographers, but they were easy to post quickly and conveyed the message effectively.

Building a Bridge for the Future

The goal of the vaccination program was not only to help protect as many community members as possible, but also to build a bridge with the community to promote future engagement with the health center. After all, as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to recede, community members will still need regular medical services: primary care, eye tests, dental cleanings, and more. 

About Upham's Corner Health Center

Founded in 1971, Upham’s Corner Health Center (UCHC) offers high-quality, affordable primary health care, home care, and elder care services to the residents of North Dorchester and its surrounding neighborhoods in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston health care partners include Boston Medical Center, Mass General Brigham, and Boston Children’s Hospital. UCHC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Learn more at UphamsCornerHealthCenter.org.

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