COVID-19 and Filipino Communities in Hawaii: How Social Media is Making a Difference

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the Aloha State, with Filipino communities being particularly affected. To help combat the disproportionate number of cases, state and community organizations have undertaken concerted outreach activities with Filipino communities through free testing, community meetings, radio and social media. The Hawaii Philippine Medical Association (PMAH) has recognized the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the Philippine community, and is working to ensure that educational campaigns about the virus are accessible in different languages. In response to this need, Next Gen Hawai'i created five social media platforms to share public health knowledge and resources with those who spoke the NHPI and Filipino languages. Surveys have revealed that 75% of participants in their events speak a language other than English, making the Filipino community the second highest in Hawaii in terms of COVID-19 infection rates, behind Pacific Islanders (30%).To further address this issue, a grassroots Filipino COVID-19 working group has partnered with several nonprofit organizations and the Filipino Community Center to use federal CARES Act funds to educate thousands of Filipino residents about the virus and how to prevent it.

Rainier Dennis Bautista, from the Hawaii Primary Care Clinic, noted that quarantine centers related to COVID-19 should be easily accessible, especially considering the worrying domestic risks in the Philippine community. Multigenerational homes are common among Filipino families, in which several family members share the same spaces. This puts them at risk of contracting the virus as essential workers, as well as infecting their family members. PMAH has partnered with several Filipino organizations to reach more audiences in the community and create social media content on behalf of these Filipino communities and the NHPI. Kalihi is suffering from the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Hawaii, with the majority of its residents being Filipinos and Pacific Islanders. Rochelle Mae Cadiente is one of several University of Hawaii students who have been working with PMAH to hand out flyers at grocery stores and post information on social media to prevent the spread. The Matagi and Manuel contact research team was created in mid-October and now has 20 members who speak nine languages, including three Filipino languages: Tagalog, Ilocano and Cebuano.

With this team's help, PMAH is striving to ensure that educational campaigns about COVID-19 are more accessible in different languages, especially for those communities at risk.