RCE Greater Atlanta - 2023

Georgia Peers for Equity Against COVID-19 and for Health (Georgia PEACH): Engaging Young Adults in Action Research on Health Promotion, Countering Misinformation, and Social Media
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Georgia Peers for Equity Against COVID-19 and for Health (Georgia PEACH): Engaging Young Adults in Action Research on Health Promotion, Countering Misinformation, and Social Media
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Atlanta
Contributing organization(s) : 
Georgia Institute of Technology
Morehouse School of Medicine
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Amy Chen
Organizational Affiliation: 
Georgia Institute of Technology
Michael Best
Organizational Affiliation: 
Georgia Institute of Technology
Rhonda Holliday
Organizational Affiliation: 
Morehouse School of Medicine
Format of project: 
Presentation will be as slides (PowerPoint/PDF)
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Friday, August 25, 2023
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Georgia, USA (Atlanta, Dalton, Fort Valley, Savannah)
Address of focal point institution for project: 
85 5th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30308, USA
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Georgia is a state in the southeast U.S. As a state in the south, and a center of the civil rights movement, it has a long history of disenfranchisement of minorities and also community-based activism. Our focus communities included Atlanta, the capital and most populous city in the state (47% Black/African American, 6% Hispanic/Latinx); Dalton, a city to the north with significant carpet manufacturing and a large Hispanic community (6% Black/A.A., 54% Hispanic/Latinx); Fort Valley, a smaller city in central Georgia (78% Black/A.A., 8% Hispanic/Latinx); and Savannah, a coastal city (49% Black/A.A., 7% Hispanic/Latinx).
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
The COVID-19 vaccination rate in the state of Georgia has remained among the lowest in the U.S. While the gap in vaccination rate of Black and Hispanic Georgians with the rest of the state has narrowed, the pandemic’s impact on racial minorities has been disproportionately greater in physical health and mortality, mental health, economic instability, and beyond. Young adults in particular have lower COVID-19 vaccination coverage and intent, and have faced unique challenges from the pandemic at a critical stage of life for social development. Health misinformation, spread widely online and often reflecting racialized narratives, has exacerbated these health inequities.
September, 2021
Georgia Peers for Equity Against COVID-19 and for Health (GA PEACH) focused on increasing vaccine confidence and uptake in Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx young adults in Georgia (ages 18-24) on college campuses and in the community. We chose to focus on this population given their low rate of COVID-19 vaccination and the disproportionate negative impacts they faced during the pandemic. A participatory community-engaged approach that directly engaged young adults as peer educators was taken in order to develop and implement culturally appropriate health communication interventions to inform and educate about the COVID-19 vaccine. This is particularly important to address mistrust around public health interventions and institutions rooted in past and present inequities faced by marginalized communities. We also included a focus on social media given the popularity of social media platforms among young adults for discussing and promoting social issues, and the preponderance of health mis- and disinformation online.
We aimed to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and uptake among young adults in our partnering communities. Data collected by the Peer Champions has been used to develop communication campaigns and strategies for young adults, and shared to inform community-based partners, academic researchers, and state and local health departments. In engaging young adults in the co-design of interventions and digital tools for countering misinformation, we are innovating in sociotechnical approaches to community-based health promotion. Finally, by engaging and employing the Peer Champions, we aimed to give them experience in community-engaged research and health communication work, advancing their educational and professional development.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
We recruited 21 students/young adults to be Peer Champions from partnering community institutions across the state, which included two public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), two minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and three Black- and Latinx-serving community-based organizations (CBOs). The Peer Champions designed and implemented intervention activities to conduct outreach with other young adults on their campuses and in their communities, including tabling booths on campus and creating video “PSAs” to post on social media. They also recruited community members to complete a survey on knowledge about and attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination and prevention. Furthermore, we conducted training sessions with the Peer Champions on recognizing misinformation, identifying the cultural narratives and other rhetorical strategies behind misinformation, and how to respond in culturally sensitive and appealing ways. We also engaged the Peer Champions on co-design activities to develop an online social media monitoring and outreach dashboard for their use.
Size of academic audience: 
21 Peer Champions directly engaged, 100+ other young adults reached
Through this project, our young adult Peer Champions led and implemented community-engaged research, including conducting survey data collection, gaining experience with culturally appropriate health communication (online and offline), and training on countering misinformation. Based on co-design activities and interviews conducted with the Peer Champions, we also developed a social media monitoring and outreach dashboard to support their work. The online dashboard allows users to browse and search through COVID-keyword-containing social media posts from a curated set of community- and topically-relevant accounts, including seeing (and thus becoming aware of) misinformation; and also upload to and search through a shared library of trusted health communication resources.
Lessons learned: 
We found that our Peer Champions valued learning from and supporting each other while contributing to research addressing issues they cared about in their respective communities. However, we faced challenges in sustaining connections and motivation, partly as our interactions were remote owing to pandemic social distancing measures and the project’s geographic spread. We also found that while the Peer Champions could act as effective “cultural code-switchers” to communicate public health messages to their community members, they faced challenges in being aware of online misinformation and identifying trustworthy information sources, pointing to further opportunities for digital tools to support their work.
Key messages: 
We engaged Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx young adults in Georgia, USA as Peer Champions in a community-engaged research project addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, focusing on misinformation and social media. We highlight the value of youth peer leadership in participatory research, and opportunities for digital tools to support community-based misinformation countering.
This project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon SM dashboard monitoring page-20230728.png (177.35 KB) Screenshot of social media monitoring and outreach dashboard (monitoring page) Amy Chen
Image icon SM dashboard resources page-20230728.png (104.62 KB) Screenshot of social media monitoring and outreach dashboard (health communication resources page) Amy Chen
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level 
I acknowledge the above: