The Task Force for Global Health and the Lab for Social Machines (LSM) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab are collaborating to develop and test a health campaign against COVID-19 in Atlanta, GA, where The Task Force is based. The Task Force and LSM are also working closely with Susan Blumenthal, MD, Director of the Health Innovations Lab at New America; Cortico, a non-profit affiliated with the MIT Media Lab whose work fosters constructive public conversations; and the Institute for Local Innovations, Inc. (Atlanta office), which helps community development organizations build economically and socially healthier communities.
The MIT Media Lab is one of the world’s leading research and academic organizations where designers, engineers, artists, and scientists strive to create technologies and experiences that enable people to understand and transform their lives, communities, and environments. Researchers from across the Media Lab have tapped into their creativity and expertise to find ways to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, LSM researchers and Blumenthal developed a national #BeatTheVirus campaign to raise awareness of the behaviors that would help defeat COVID-19. Seeking the support of public health experts and wanting to focus geographically, they are now collaborating with The Task Force to pilot a local COVID-19 effort, based in Atlanta.
The campaign is focused on a predominantly African-American area in south Atlanta, as people of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19; nationally, African Americans get infected and die from COVID-19 at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population. The initiative is being co-designed and carried out with trusted local influencers with a deep understanding of the population’s experience and context and is also informed by four additional methods: monitoring Twitter, listening to local radio, conducting polls, and facilitating deep local conversations. Together, this information will help researchers to better understand and respond to areas of concern and help protect the public, particularly African-Americans, initially in the pilot area of south Atlanta.
“We are applying state-of-the-art social media practices and media analytics to target essential information to specific populations,” explains MIT Professor Deb Roy, PhD, who heads LSM. “Working closely with The Task Force’s dedicated team of experts, our goal is to set a precedent and build a model for future health campaigns that facilitate our connection with, and understanding of, underserved populations.”