Upham's Corner Health Center
Serving an underserved community during the Covid-19 pandemic
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Local elected officials, including a City Council member and the State Representative, visited the site to receive their vaccinations.
Along 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.