In partnership with the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) and with a grant from the Rose Hills Foundation, this Designmatters studio challenged ArtCenter students to co-create a community-based campaign to encourage caregivers and parents to vaccinate their children ages 6 months to11 years in a specific Black and Latinx Pasadena neighborhood.
“Our biggest challenge was getting to know the community. We spent weeks out with them there learning and listening. We went to Pasadena Public Health events on Saturday, local supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and laundromats. We needed to immerse ourselves and ask, ‘Who is this for? What do they care about? How can we make our message more relatable to them?’”
Connie Zhou, Interaction Design
In the Spring of 2022, with a grant from the Rose Hills Foundation, ArtCenter transdisciplinary students worked in partnership with the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) to co-create an effective Covid vaccination campaign for children 6 months to 11 years that targets caregivers and parents in a specific Black and Latinx Pasadena neighborhood.
With a goal of an increased childhood vaccination rates and to instill trust in PPHD, students immersed themselves into the community and learned from on-the-ground subject matter experts including promotoras, lay health advocates and community clinic workers. Employing traditional and non-traditional media and methods, the students’ campaign engages children but also resonates with adults with the goal of countering their vaccination hesitancy and mistrust within the medical community.
The kickoff session introduced students to members of the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) who shared their experiences involving vaccine outreach, how Covid-19 messaging has evolved through the iterations of the virus, methods of vaccine distribution, and how local communities have responded to the call to get vaccinated.
The latest target audience for PPHD is parents and caregivers of young children who have become eligible to receive the vaccination. As with the initial vaccine rollout, many adults remain hesitant about allowing their children to get the vaccine, adopting a “wait and see” attitude among other reasons.
Matt Feaster from PPHD shared data about the role of epidemiology in regards to public health, noting how experts determine the overall health of a specific community. Feaster reviewed trends in the Covid outbreak that started in 2020; currently, unvaccinated individuals have a higher risk of being hospitalized with Covid than vaccinated ones.
Despite the high percentage of people in Pasadena who are vaccinated, Feaster explained that disparities reflect racial inequities. In low vaccinated communities, there is much mistrust of governmental agencies and conflicting misinformation about vaccines effectiveness/side effects.
Dr. Ying Goh from PPHD discussed the history of vaccine hesitancy along with popular rumors and myths. There are good reasons for governmental mistrust, she says citing the unethical history of the Tuskegee Study as an example. Regaining that trust is foremost she says adding that today’s vaccine hesitancy is social, cultural, political and personal.
Sharing the current strategies of the PPHD, Judith Dunaway stressed how the department does not employ fear tactics and reaches out first with awareness campaigns that are “honest and factual.” She described how community partners, including faith-based organizations, are extremely influential.
“Watching the students’ final presentations, I felt my own ‘inner child’ come out and enjoy the projects. Not only will children will appreciate these campaigns, but the parents, adults and even young adults. These projects bring out the ‘youth’ in us and teach us about teamwork.”
Lilyt Davtyan, Pasadena Department of Public Health
Still, many of those who are hesitant don’t believe in the severity of the disease, pointing out individuals, who were infected with Covid recovered with no long lasting effects. Also, the power of friends and families’ opinions can sway people more than facts and science. “Part of our strategy is to be open and non-judgmental,” said Dunaway. “On a one-to-one level, we are able to change minds.”
After digesting the presentations, students and PPHD members brainstormed ways to help these populations regain trust in public health departments. Best motivational methods were also discussed. Comparing profiles of Early Adopters vs Vaccine Hesitants also proved useful.
PPHD narrowed down the student’s target audience to a specific zip code in northern Pasadena where vaccination rates were very low for Black and Latinx communities. Students were directed to online resources where they could uncover statistics for the area by age, ethnicity and more.
“Don’t forget the social force of belonging,” reminded the instructor as student teams started to map out where on the ground they would go for research and observation.
Field work thrust the students in their target neighborhood where they would seek common ground with residents, gather important data points and find connections that would provide foundational insights for their concepts.
Students had the opportunity to meet and learn from the work of promotoras; PPHD originated this on-the-ground program to help improve Covid vaccination rates in Pasadena. As lay health workers, promotoras are individuals who promote public health initiatives in underserved neighborhoods where mistrust and misinformation often occurs. Promotoras are familiar with the culture and local history of the area as well as speak the language of the community.
Teams observed promotoras in action, watching how face-to-face, interpersonal connections highlighted the importance of listening, asking permission, speaking a shared language and offering help when appropriate. Through the promotoras, residents felt more relaxed and talked freely about their fears, hopes and dreams. As the face of PPHD in the community, promotoras present to residents a compassionate side to an institution that was often thought of as a faceless government entity that didn’t really care about them.
Teams observed how local flyers were displayed at popular super markets and libraries. Students also visited playgrounds, farmers’ markets, community centers, sports fields, and more. At PPHD outreach events, students watched and listened how residents responded to health issues. Students witnessed how health topics became emotional moments reflecting the deep love parents/caregivers had for their children and community.
“Of course the students’ artistic ability is eye-catching, but I was also impressed on how drastically these projects moved forward. They really took into account all community members’ insights and input which really helped make their projects shine and deliver the message they were trying to convey. They make their concepts more relatable.”
Lilyt Davtyan, Pasadena Department of Public Health
With each field visit, teams came to witness the barriers to vaccination, and knew that accessibility and building trust was vital to a successful campaign. Additionally, students kept their eyes open to possible partners in their projects who could further validate the messaging.
Teams knew their campaigns should not be heavy-handed or use fearful language. While the parents/caregivers were the final target, the campaigns needed to attract the attention of the children who would see the value of vaccinations. The campaign needed to be fun and colorful, engaging and unique enough for this community, but broad enough to possibly be incorporated elsewhere in Pasadena.
In the classroom, students engaged in exercises and design discussions as they uncovered more insights and research facts. They examined what made past campaigns successful for PPHD, noting how awareness fed into engagement. They reviewed best methods for communicating digitally as well as using traditional media.
Documentary filmmaker John Hoffman presented the students with storytelling foundations which could be incorporated into their final projects. By using personal stories, the campaign could speak directly to the recipients, meeting them on safe ground.
After a few weeks, students presented their Research Findings to PPHD. Teams shared their goals, initial insights and messaging along with a few rough conceptual directions. PPHD suggested how teams could alter their design-thinking approach to move their concepts forward. Social media exposure was discussed at length; how can this communication tool be included to reach the appropriate demographic? What are the benefits of a tangible, non-digital solution?
“What impressed me about this group of students was their willingness to take direction, get out there, talk to people and engage with the community. They were also very good listeners. They got a lot of feedback and so they were continually connecting the dots and thinking about their concept from so many directions.”
Samantha Fleming, Instructor
Overall, the session reinforced key points of accessibility and trust-building along with the power of human interactions.
As they moved closer to mid-terms students expanded their concepts, continued research and community engagement.
Eager to have informative feedback, student teams presented retooled concepts at the midterm to PPHD where they recapped the challenge, synthesized their research into insights and offered design strategies for engagement. Sharing prototype mock-ups, teams also offered possible communication methods, campaign timeline and partnerships. Students also considered how promotoras would use and incorporate the various materials in their day-to-day interactions with residents.
PPHD examined the strengths and weaknesses of the concepts along with emphasizing aspects where teams could continue to explore. Students were reminded to keep the goal of increased childhood vaccination as their guide and to design the message in ways that are simple and direct while being child and community-friendly.
Fueled with the critique, teams returned to their projects with a renewed sense; some realized a need to refocus their design-thinking, others went deeper into their concepts. All were energized to incorporate this latest feedback into their projects as well as create and test updated prototypes in the field. Many teams organized next steps for refinement, budget and roll-out operations.
Doris Ma, Hellen Tong, Shiya Wu, Saathwik Yadavalli
With a superhero theme, this campaign invites youngsters to become a courageous superhero by getting a vaccination. Graphic depictions of Team Vaxadena, kid superheroes characters of different ages, genders and cultures are set against primary color backdrops and comic-book style thought bubbles. Imagery will be featured in outdoor graphics, social media and a dedicated website – where adults can learn more and make a vaccine reservation. A physical Vax Pak will be mailed to residents; a flyer unfolds for fun kid-friendly activities: a family board game, gift cards and coloring pages – all integrated with the latest vaccination information including a page of myth-busting facts. A call to action page, invites kids to dress up as a superhero and, at an upcoming vaccination event, “courageously” get their vaccine followed by a photo in a photo booth. Superhero-themed masks, bandages and buttons will also be available. The Vax Pak can be handed out at community events, churches, etc. and ordered on the website.
Sally Chen, Andres Nuno, Yue Xi
Using story and storytelling events, this campaign features a physical large storybook as well as an online book about the Pasa Protectors, friendly cartoon-y characters. The story features Dina, a young Latinx girl who learns to overcome her vaccine fear with the help of her Pasa Protector friends. The large storybook can be read by volunteers and promotoras at pop-up vaccination events at schools, parks, churches, community centers, etc. After being vaccinated, kids can receive character-themed stickers and a vaccine badge. The online book version can be printed and used at home, etc. Lessons in the story encourage active participation: how masks keep viruses from spreading (use a spray bottle and large piece of cardboard with and without a mask), what activity can you do in five seconds, and other simple art-themed projects. An Activity Book outlines the ways leaders can teach lessons. Flyers/posters along with social media posts will feature the Pasa Protector characters, Covid information and announce upcoming vaccination events.
Dung Ho, Zean Wu, Connie Zhou
This campaign draws on the power of team sports to entertain and educate. Kids are invited to join Team Vax Cats, feline characters who represent different cultures, abilities and genders. Each character either resembles a Black or Latinx sports icon in real life or a science figure. Recruitment boxes will be distributed to kids at schools, churches and will be mailed to resident’s homes. Inside this “Back to School” box are assorted school supplies, masks, hand sanitizer and a ‘cat ear headband’ costume along with a vaccine booklet featuring the cat ear-shaped Vax Cat logo. Using the tagline, “Everything is Pawsible,” the bilingual booklet will contain Covid vaccine information along with background stories on each Vax Cats. Post vaccine care is also included as well as a letter to parents to find a clinic or schedule an appointment. A QR code is included for easier online link. Outdoor outreach will focus on large posters, banners and flyers while social media posts will incorporate bright, simple messages with cat characters.
In Fall 2023, students Connie Chu and Hellen Tong were selected as Designmatters Fellows for Vaccinate Pasadena. Connie and Hellen are working closely with PPHD to refine and test campaign concepts from the studio, and have brought prototypes to many community events, including Giggles and Screams put on by Pasadena Parks and Recreation. PPHD has plans for a fuller roll-out of the final campaign materials in Spring 2023.