‘Black & Essential’ Research Underscores Digital Media Literacy as Key Strategy in Supporting Louisiana’s Black Communities During COVID-19

March 26, 2021

David Stamps, Ph.D. BATON ROUGE—New research on the experiences of Louisiana’s Black community during COVID-19 illustrates the need for ample support and strategies, including amplifying public health messaging and digital literacies, to champion Black Louisianans’ well-being during the pandemic. Lead investigator and LSU Assistant Professor David Stamps will present this work at the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting Friday, March 26, at 2 p.m. CST. The presentation will be livestreamed at https://youtu.be/VdTUazCF1-g.

From physical and mental health, economic outcomes and education access to higher hospitalization and mortality rates, the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on Black communities compared to non-Black counterparts are well documented in existing research. This study—a collaboration between LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs and the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force—expands that literature by offering strategies to mitigate those effects through new media (e.g., smartphone applications, telehealth services) and new media tools, such as delivery and pick-up services, to reduce exposure and keep Black Louisianans abreast of the latest health and safety information.

David Stamps, an assistant professor in strategic communication and mass media at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and a Reilly Center Research Affiliate, collected and analyzed survey data from 1,027 Black Louisiana residents. His findings offer descriptive data such as financial assistance received during COVID-19, illustrations of family dynamics, and technology access and engagement among a cross-section of Black Louisiana residents. This work follows Stamps’ earlier research on the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black Baton Rouge residents.

“By acknowledging the experiences of Louisiana’s Black community during COVID-19, we are taking an additional step in advancing policy conversations, efforts in program planning and funding distribution that support Black Louisianans' well-being during and post this crisis. These efforts ultimately aid in mitigating the systemic underpinnings of racial and financial inequality,” Stamps said.

“This work plays an invaluable role in understanding how health inequities are affecting our Black Louisiana residents, who are among our state’s most affected populations. It advances our mission to improve health outcomes and equity in Louisiana,” said Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Co-Chairs Sandra Brown and Thomas LaVeist in a joint statement.

Key Data Points:

  • 37% of participants live with someone who has a serious health condition.
  • 27% of participants reported someone in their family who works in a health care setting, such as a hospital or nursing home.
  • 38% of participants reported that someone in their household is employed in what is now deemed essential work, including employment at a fast-food restaurant or grocery store.
  • 87% of participants have access to the internet in their private residence, including access via smartphone, laptop computer or tablet.
  • 92% of participants have access to a smartphone (i.e., cell phone with Wi-Fi access).
  • 28% of participants have used telemedicine (i.e., medical experts distributing health-related services such as medical advice and information via electronic technologies).
  • 31% of participants have ordered prescriptions online before and since the pandemic (as of November 2020).\
  • 58% of participants have started to use digital technology, such as delivery applications (e.g., Task Rabbit) to order or pick up groceries, medicine or toiletries since the pandemic began. 

Key Findings:

  • Digital literacies and access to digital technology—including the use of smartphone applications and increased accessibility of debit cards, SNAP benefits and Electronic Benefits Transfer cards—would benefit Black communities. These access points would create pathways for community members to access necessary materials in a contactless manner and allow individuals to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • These vital steps provide necessary services that help individuals transition to digital platforms for mental and physical health services or acquiring essential items using contactless resources.
  • Increasing digital literacies and digital technology access would reduce the digital divide, positioning Black Louisianans to combat the general exclusion from healthcare access, education advancement and economic mobility.
  • Black Louisianans demonstrated a positive relationship with increased comfort with digital media usage and psychological well-being. This outcome suggests that among the sample, having a sense of ease with digital media positions individuals to feel more confident, including positive feelings of personal growth, efficaciousness and favorable positioning for social mobility. 

The full research report and summary can be accessed via the Reilly Center's research webpage.  

This report was funded by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation, and the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation.

For more information, contact acharbonnet1@lsu.edu or janene_tate@sus.edu


LSU Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs: The Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs is partnership-driven, action-oriented and dedicated to exploring contemporary issues at the intersection of mass communication and public life. Its interdisciplinary approach draws together experts from diverse fields to advance research and dialogue. The intent is to inspire our communities to think deeply, take action, develop solutions and broaden knowledge. Underlying the Center’s endeavors is to strengthen and advance the Manship School’s national and state leadership in media and politics. 

Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force: Gov. John Bel Edwards created the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to look at how health inequities are affecting communities that are most impacted by the coronavirus. The task force’s work focuses on actions and research that aims to improve health outcomes and equity in Louisiana and is comprised of leaders across the state from educational, public health, grassroots organizations, religious institutions, and government. 

Baton Rouge Area Foundation: The Foundation is among the largest of more than 700 U.S. community foundations. The Foundation does three things: 1) connects fund donors—philanthropists—to worthwhile projects and nonprofit organizations; 2) conducts civic leadership initiatives, including restoring the University/City Park Lakes; 3) Creates fundraising strategies for organizations and advises them on governance and growth strategies. With our donors, the Foundation has granted more than $600 million since inception in 1964. 

Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation: Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation was created to better the lives of the people in the Greater Baton Rouge community. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson believed communities should use their local talents and resources to solve problems; however, communities sometimes need additional support along the way. The Foundation believes when people have their healthcare, education and basic needs met they can be self-sufficient, productive, and successful members of society. The Wilsons knew that the most disadvantaged people in our communities need the most assistance, so the Foundation focuses on the sick and disabled, the indigent, and the formerly incarcerated. Since 2000 the Foundation has invested more than $59 million in causes throughout the 10-parish capital region. 

Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation: The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation was founded by Claude B. "Doc" Pennington and his wife Irene Wells Pennington in 1982. The foundation focuses on human health, creative minds, and ensuring all Louisianans can have access to economic opportunities by partnering with other donors, businesses, government, and most importantly community nonprofit partners - without whom none of the Foundation's ambitions on any issue can be realized. The foundation is committed to investing in people, partnerships, and new ideas that solve specific problems, and together ensure a vibrant and sustainable community.