How Communities Can Use Live Chat to Engage with Public Health Officials

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Health Officials

Public health has never been more important than it is today. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need officials who can distribute critical health information in a way that the public can understand. The public wants to know as much as they can about health topics that could affect them. 

In addition to being knowledgeable about public health, officials need to be strong communicators. They need to be able to balance between creating urgency and not causing people to panic, which can be difficult during a public health emergency. 

Unfortunately, the current public health system has a few bottlenecks that prevent officials from quickly communicating with the public and might not get their feedback in a timely manner. This is especially a concern when members of the public need to know important health information that could potentially impact their family. 

This is where live chat can come in. Communities can use live chat as a public health tool to connect with officials and resources to learn more about how to keep residents safe. 

What is Live Chat? 

Live chat allows people to open up a chat window on their device and engage through text with a business, agency, or other organization. A live chat line is staffed and gives people another method of communication. 

Live chat provides real-time assistance without the frustration of listening to on-hold music for an hour. This service is especially important for organizations that may have long wait times before they can be reached over the phone. 

The Role of Public Health Officials 

There are many different public health jobs, but all of them are intended to help keep communities safe. Epidemiologists do research on public health concerns to determine how severe emerging threats might be. Others help develop policies to help reduce public health crises and provide recommendations to their communities to help keep people safe. 

Communication is an absolute critical part of providing public health services, but many people don’t know how to get in touch with their local officials. 

Benefits of Live Chat for Public Health 

During a health crisis, the flow of information is critical. People often have questions and will want updates from public health officials. This can mean an influx of phone calls and things can get lost in the shuffle. People can become irritated or even frantic when trying to reach officials over the phone. 

Live chat offers the ability to provide and receive real-time information in a way that’s easily recorded. People are often more likely to reach out if they have access to multiple communication methods, and live chat could help officials get more updates and information from the communities they serve. 

Public health officials depend on local medical facilities to provide reporting on case numbers and to learn more about general community health.  But hearing from the public is also important. Although not all live chat conversations will be helpful, officials need to understand what people are going through on an individual level. 

Minimizing Impact 

The goal for any public health administrator should be to understand threats and minimize their impact. They must be compassionate and care about their communities so they will work hard on their behalf. This can be a challenge when an emerging virus like COVID-19 begins to spread. It’s difficult to minimize the impact of a disease you don’t fully understand. 

Disease management can’t be performed in a bubble. Public health officials need to collaborate with other experts and hear from the public. If people feel heard, they are more likely to respect public health officials and listen to their recommendations. 

Officials need to understand all of the factors that might be impacting the health of their communities, including income, demographics, education, and more. Having a direct line to the community itself will help ensure that officials don’t get out of touch and disconnected from the community’s health concerns and why they might be occurring. Education programs must be centered around the unique needs of each community. 

Keeping Communities Safe 

There’s no perfect solution for allowing communities to contact their public health officials. However, live chat can provide a simple line of communication that can be used for many different purposes. One live chat line in Toronto connects people with a public nurse, who can provide advice on programs the city offers, like substance use or healthy eating resources. This allows people to access what they need more easily. 

Keeping communities safe involves both proactive and reactive strategies. Education on health topics is an ongoing project for public health officials, since the more informed the community is, the healthier it will be. Communication and transparency build trust, and trust improves community bonds. 

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