For more than a year, "Dr. Dean" and "Dr. Lena" have shared general pediatric information with parents via a bi-weekly podcast, "Kids Considered." Their topics have run the gamut—including nutrition, discipline and HPV vaccines. So, when the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the U.S., there was no question about how best to share vital information with their patients and families.
"At that point there was so much uncertainty, panic and misinformation expressed by our listeners and parents," says Lena van der List, M.D., a pediatrician at UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, California. "We thought we could help ease some of these concerns by doing a weekly COVID-19 update in addition to our regularly released episodes."
Parents finding comfort in trusted sources
From the podcast's inception, van der List and Dean Blumberg, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital, have sought to provide timely, relevant information in an informal, conversational format. They say that approach has resonated with listeners across all topics—and is particularly helpful during this outbreak.
"It is reassuring for patients and parents to hear a familiar voice during this time," van der List says. "Throughout his career, Dr. Blumberg has navigated outbreaks and worked to develop vaccines—he knows how to interpret the data and the public health implications and present them in a way that can be understood by professionals and the public alike."
Podcast listeners driving COVID-19 update content
Kids Considered has evolved since its September 2018 launch, gathering more than 14,000 downloads across 80-plus countries worldwide. So too, have the COVID-19 weekly updates thanks to input from listeners.
"Initially, we were addressing what we thought was most important—the epidemiology, the number of cases and the basic biology of the virus," says Blumberg. "But we are seeing a rapid increase in questions coming in from our parent listeners, so we have moved to addressing the challenges that communities are facing and demystifying some of the dramatic public health actions that are occurring."
Important communications role for children's hospitals
Blumberg and van der List say children's hospitals are positioned to share reliable and public health-driven information with the community around the pandemic, and it may require venturing outside comfort zones—they suggest clinicians work with their institution's media department and seek out opportunities to reach larger audiences.
"As children's hospitals, we know that we have the best and the brightest health care leaders for children—we have incredible state-of-the-art knowledge to share with our communities," Blumberg says. "There's only so much you can do to educate people during one-on-one encounters, so using social media, traditional media or other platforms can rapidly amplify your ability to communicate important health issues—especially during these worrisome times."
Read more about Kids Considered, including links to all podcast episodes. Watch Drs. Blumberg and van der List present COVID-19 information for pediatricians in a recent webinar for California chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics.