The Department of Health and the HSE use a variety of media channels to inform and assist the public on a regular basis. This includes national and local radio ad campaigns and the participation of spokespeople and health experts to radio and television programmes.
The Department of Health has developed many public health information campaigns, regarding policy and service updates, for radio, television and social media. These include Healthy Ireland ‘Let’s Get Set’ campaign, Sláintecare ‘Integrated Fund’ campaign, minimum unit pricing of alcohol, call-to-action on the palliative care consultation, screening and the National Screening Advisory Council campaigns and multiple Women’s Health Taskforce led initiatives.
In line with best practice international advice and guidance provided by the WHO and the ECDC, communications has been a cornerstone of the Department of Health and wider Government’s response to COVID-19 from the outset of this pandemic.
Safe behaviours are the bedrock of my Department and the HSE’s communications programmes. Over the last number of months, my Department and the HSE have, in close collaboration, developed numerous public health information campaigns that cover these behaviours in depth, for radio, TV, digital and print media.
The Department communicates its messaging through the traditional medium of radio, including numerous public health information campaigns. Representatives of the NPHET are also regularly available for media interview across all major media outlets such as RTE, Newstalk and Virgin Media News, to answer questions and provide responses to any concerns posed to them by media or the general public in relation to the pandemic and Ireland’s response to it.
In 2020, the Department of Health launched its first official podcast ‘Health of the Nation’. The channel featured health officials, healthcare workers and experts delivering clear and factual information regarding our response to the pandemic. This channel will be relaunched to cover a wide range of health topics into the future.
Considering the large audiences that populate social media in Ireland, the Department of Health has directed followers on social media to official sources of information, such as the Government website, the COVID-19 Data Hub and the HSE’s website. The HSE also undertakes considerable social media advertising campaigns in order to promote public health information, health services and general expert advice across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The Department proactively tackles misinformation online, an example of which is the SciComm Collective; a network of young science communicators backed by the Department of Health to reach wider audiences with trusted information.
All of this work is supported by regular opinion polling carried out by Amárach. This is published weekly on my Department’s website and shows the commitment to assessing how the general public are feeling, not only about the COVID-19 measures, but on a range of issues related to the pandemic – including the media platforms they see or would like to see more public health information made available.