by Sissy Trinh
Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA)
While COVID-19 presented numerous challenges, one of the largest issues facing the public health sector was the lack of consistent messaging by government agencies and officials. Nowhere was this more acute than for members of the public who faced language and technology barriers. The lack of translated materials and non-web based public health strategies meant that residents with language and tech barriers were often relying on misinformed neighbors and outdated information.
The Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA) stepped in to fill this void by partnering with NNLM PSR at UCLA. SEACA created a COVID relief/mutual aid program in March 2020 to distribute PPE, groceries, and public health information in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English for the low-income residents of Chinatown Los Angeles. However, because SEACA was not a public health organization, finding accurate, accessible, and up-to-date public health information proved difficult, especially given how quickly the science was evolving along with conflicting public health orders. The NNLM PSR staff were able to provide crucial support by sourcing culturally and linguistically appropriate information based on the Chinatown community’s current needs and conditions. For example, public health directives such as “go grocery shopping once every two weeks” was impractical because so many Chinatown residents live in overcrowded housing or in Single Room Occupancy units and storing that much food was not possible. Instead, NNLM staff found and shared flyers on how large families and families with essential workers can protect themselves from COVID. This allowed SEACA to avoid acting as amateur epidemiologists/public health experts and instead to focus on its strengths – acting as a crucial lifeline to residents who had limited access to other sources of information.
As a result of this award, SEACA was able to successfully distribute culturally and linguistically relevant information about COVID-19, All of Us Research Program information, and supplies to Chinatown community members.