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

LSU's Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs has teamed up with the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to offer strategies to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on Black Louisiana residents 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.

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, David Stamps, Ph.D., 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.  

 Full Report First Wave Research Black and Essential Press Release

Key Takeaways from the Report

  •  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. 

Key Findings from the Report

One thousand twenty-seven (1,027) Black Louisiana residents answered an open and closed-ended questionnaire. Of the sample, 9%  attended some high school but did not receive a diploma; 33% completed high school; 25% attended college but did not receive a degree, for example associates or bachelor’s degree; 23% graduated from a two or four-year college; and 10% received a post bachelor’s degree, such as a Ph.D. or M.D.

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Black Baton Rouge Residents In the Home

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of participants live with someone who has a serious health condition. 

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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Technology Access

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of participants have access to the internet in their private residence, including access via smartphone, laptop computer or tablet. Ninety-two percent (92%) of participants have access to a smartphone (i.e., cell phone with Wi-Fi access)

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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Family Dynamics

Thirty-seven (37%) of participants live with someone who has a serious health condition. Twenty-seven (27%) of participants reported someone in their family who works in a health care setting, such as a hospital or nursing home. Thirty-eight (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. 

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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Expressed Community Needs

Fifty-eight (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. 

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Black Baton Rouge Residents Housing & Medical Care

Twenty-eight (28%) of participants have used telemedicine (i.e., medical experts distributing health-related services such as medical advice and information via electronic technologies). Thirty-one (31%) of participants have ordered prescriptions online before and since the pandemic (as of November 2020).