Targeted communication with key stakeholders is important in all phases during the establishment and scale-up of services. Partnerships should be established and formalised to help with engagement and communication.
In order to maximise the impact of interventional health research findings on healthcare in a complex environment such as the prisons, an assessment of the practical issues that support or inhibit uptake must be undertaken, and the extent to which a program can be adapted to meet variations in local circumstances recorded. With this information policy makers and providers can ensure widespread implementation into usual practice.
How should information be disseminated?
A dissemination plan should be developed, outlining the messages and methods of communication, tailored to each target audience.
The plan may utilise methods such as:
- Formal reports to organisational heads
- Newsletters and fact sheets for corrections and health organisation staff
- Media releases as well as social media accounts for the public
A specific dissemination strategy for family members of prisoners should be considered. This presents an opportunity for education, and if necessary, linkage of both prisoners and their family members to hepatitis testing and treatment services in the community. Potential times or places to provide such information include visitor waiting rooms, family days, and through organisations supporting families of prisoners.
Who should be considered in the target audience?
The dissemination plan should include communication of an introduction to the program, as well as its progress and the outcomes achieved, at regular intervals to key audiences, including:
- Policymakers at the local, state, or federal level
- Funding agencies
- Prison directors and senior management
- Custodial staff
- Prison healthcare staff
- Family members of prisoners
- Consumer advocacy groups representing prisoners, people living with hepatitis C, and people who inject drugs
- General public/community members
More broadly, an understanding of the general community support or potential resistance to health care programs targeting prisoners will help to formulate pre-emptive strategies to handle negative media coverage. The messaging should focus on benefits to the general community, in terms of reduction in overall prevalence of chronic infection (as most prisoners are released back to the community) and the associated burden of disease on health care services in the community, as well as reduction in the risk of further transmissions both within prisons and following release.
The partnerships with community organisations advocating for the health and wellbeing of prisoners, people living with hepatitis C, and people who inject drugs, are important to lend credibility to the scale-up efforts and to facilitate successful communication. This approach is important to ensure appropriate engagement and reporting of outcomes, and to mitigate any potential backlash in the community.