Selected Podcast

COVID-19 Conversations: How to Partner with Your Department of Health for COVID-19 Resources During a Time of Crisis

Date: April 01, 2020
In this interview,  Christina Deidesheimer, Director of System Marketing Communications, Beebe Healthcare and Andrea Wojcik, Section Chief Office of Health and Risk Communication, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, share how they have aligned their efforts to serve their community during this crisis.  Christina will share how Andrea and the Department of Public Health has allowed her organization and team to communicate a centralized place for the public to go for questions, thus lightening the design burden on them. They also give advice on how those in smaller organization can utilize others outside of your team to assist with your communication efforts.
COVID-19 Conversations: How to Partner with Your Department of Health for COVID-19 Resources During a Time of Crisis
Christina Deidesheimer | Andrea Wojcik
Christina Deidesheimer, Director of System Marketing Communications, Beebe Healthcare. 

Andrea Wojcik, Section Chief Office of Health and Risk Communication, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health.

Bill Klaproth: SHSMD members play a critical role as to the organizations and communities they serve. This special edition of the SHSMD Podcast is part of the COVID-19 Conversations Series featuring members, stories and resources in an effort to provide insight into how some organizations are managing this unprecedented crisis.

Lisa: Everyday health care leaders and frontline staff are tirelessly caring for patients affected by COVID-19 and this period of uncertainty and social distance. We want to help share the great work SHSMD members are doing by capturing your stories and extending useful resources. Today we have Christina Deidesheimer, Director of Systems Marketing Communications at Beebe Healthcare and Andrea Wojcik, Section Chief Office of Health and Risk Communications at Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, the Division of Public Health. They will be sharing how they have aligned their efforts to serve the community. Christina will then share how the Department of Public Health has allowed her organization and team to communicate a centralized place for the public to go for questions. Thus lightening the design burden on them. Andrea and Christina, thank you so much for your time today. I'm going to kick off my first question to Andrea and ask that you please start off by painting a broad general picture of how your community is being affected by COVID-19.

Andrea Wojcik: So thank you for having us today. I would say that in Delaware, and maybe it's helpful to say that I represent the State's Division of Public Health. I know there are a lot of States out there that has County Health Agencies, but in Delaware, because we are so small, we operationalize everything at the State level. So we don't have County Public Health Agencies. We only have State Public Health locations in each of our three counties. So with that we have three counties in the State. Our total population is just under a million, as a very small state tucked into the area between Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. We often see a lot of cross traffic from other States. And because we have a thriving beach area where Christina's Health System is located we also get a lot of visitors and we have a lot of people who are retirees who sign up for areas that is particular a great place to live.

Delaware's a little bit. We've been fortunate in that it did not hit us as early as they hit the other States. In fact, we were one of the last two States to announce a positive case of COVID-19. That being said, that was just two weeks ago I believe. And now we are up to 214 cases as of end up day on March 28th, and we have five people who have passed away from COVID-19 throughout the State and we have approximately 31 people who are hospitalized. While a lot of States have seen, have been seeing their numbers skyrocket for several days. We're just getting to that point. So I think where we are now as a state is we can expect to see more cases and more cases in the coming days before we see a leveling off or a decrease.

Host: Thank you. Andrea, can you please share how you two have worked together to provide resources not just for Beebe healthcare, but for the state of Delaware?

Andrea Wojcik: So one of my key pieces of advice for any State or County Public Health Agency is to have an established relationship with the communication staff in your hospital systems before something like this happens. We were fortunate in that all of the hospital system communications folks and my staff were already in contact. You know, we talk about other outbreaks. We talk about instances where they might have an infectious disease and whether or not we or they are going to announce something and make it public. So, we already had the established relationship. And when this started, when COVID started to hit, I made sure that I was sending out messages to all of them at the same time with information that I was getting from the CDC, whether it's their key daily messaging points tried to pass along information about the CDC media calls early on.

And then just making sure that before we're putting out any press releases at the state level, they're seeing them before they actually go out. So they have some sort of a heads up as to what we're pushing out. All of the health system communication staff are also on our press release list. So they're going to get it anyway. But I always give them the benefit of seeing it first. So they have that advanced notice. And I think in a lot of cases some of the hospitals, communications folks would say, Hey, we're getting a question from this media outlets. And once I saw that one health system was getting that question, I would try to reach out to the other system saying, Hey, this health system has reported this question from this media outlet. Are you getting the same thing? This is their planned response. This would be our planned response. And in that way, we tried to coordinate messaging across the board.

Host: Thank you. Andrea. Christina, any specific resources you've received from Andrea and her team that you feel had the most impact?

Christina Deidesheimer: Yeah, absolutely. So as Andrea mentioned early on, well, I'll just sort of step back from that for a moment and say early on in any crisis, and many of us and many people listening, who have been through crises know that it kind of goes in many waves, and none of us have been through a crisis like this before. But it goes in many waves and the first wave is typically, you know, we don't know anything. Typically your Division of Public Health or your County Health Department or whatever your setup is, are the ones that know more than you. Because in the beginning it's just what's happening, and you and your health system are trying just to get information. And so in those very beginning stages when we didn't really know a lot Andrea's team was invaluable. And like she said, she was getting information out to us on a daily basis, sometimes more than that. And it was so helpful to us. We had flyers, they put together an amazing website. They mounted a screening, and testing capabilities. There was a hotline people could call.

And that was, it just gave us me a huge sigh of relief because we were getting, as Andrea mentioned, just tons of calls from media. We were getting a lot of internal and external calls from folks. And so in those very beginning stages when there was starting to be this mounting sort of chaos from folks who just really wanted answers to be able to say, here's a flyer, here's the number to call, was very helpful. And then, you know, in crisis, you move on to the other phases where you start to have information and you start, you need to create your own information as you have it internally to your teams and to your communities, as it becomes a more local crisis, if you will early on. And still our state division of health remains a vital source. We created, at We created a public health page. Well, we've always had one, but we've enhanced it for this crisis and we've created one that you know, chalked full of information about COVID-19 with resources for people in our County and we have a link to the State DPHs website because they've got that Up To Date information that we can't, can't replicate.

Host: Great point. Thank you. Great insights there. Christina, I know you also mentioned that your health system mounted a network of mobile screening sites and a call center for those who do not have a doctor. Can you share any details on that?

Christina Deidesheimer: Yeah, absolutely. So taking the state's lead and, and working in partnership with the state we mounted mobile screening sites as you mentioned started with one and that's proliferated. So now we have several sites throughout our County. So we serve Sussex County in Delaware. We have those mobile sites and we have a screening hotline, if you will. So what we're, what we tell our folks to do is to call their doctor. If they feel they need to be tested and if they don't have a doctor, they can call our hotline. And through one of those two channels, they can be screened and then be tested. If they meet the criteria essentially if they're symptomatic. And we've been able to get a lot of people in our County through the screening process or even just to answer questions and really to educate folks and then of course, to get them through testing if they meet the criteria.

Host: Thank you. Thank you both. Before closing out this interview, are there any other ideas, thoughts, or resources you would like to share with SHSMD members?

Andrea Wojcik: I think from the State level I'll share our state Coronavirus page, which is located at That is where we have centralized all of our information, every sources. That includes a section at the bottom of graphic resources so that any of our partners can take those graphics for social media and share them or personalize them for their own individual use.

Christina Deidesheimer: For our part within the health system as a, you know, in marketing communications, the strategy folks. I would say a couple of things. I would say use all available channels. I think most of us are doing that already. But really look across all the available channels, look at PSAs for TV and radio. Use your intranet use your boards however many boards you have. And some of us in nonprofit, we have got a lot of boards. Those can be really invaluable people. Don't be afraid to reach outside of your marketing communication strategy, business development team for help. In crisis like this, we can't do it alone. So for instance, putting together a team to help tell our story internally and externally. Specifically we have had a huge outpouring of support and donations of things and items and food, and so forth from our community, which has been phenomenal, but we can't manage that alone. So we've reached out to other folks who help with that. And really to use current relationships that you have built before the crisis to help get the word out. Because we all know that it's important that we tell our community to stay at home if you're sick and all of those messages that we're trying to get out. And to really just kind of take a moment and think about all of the ways that you can let folks know the important messages. And then the other thing is that I think is really important that we're all saying to each other now, which is make sure that you have, that you've built bench strength or that you're building it now so that you can take some time to take pauses, and take time off and take care of yourself.

Andrea Wojcik: I'd love to follow up with what Christina's remark about teamwork and bench strength, and take time for yourself and recognizing that you can't do it all. In the Division of Public Health, I have a staff of six, so we're a total staff of seven. And, but as this crisis started to evolve while initially it started to section off responsibilities for people, it quickly grew to the point where we couldn't even manage it ourselves. So we stood up a joint information center at the State Collaboration Center. And in this joint information center, I have communications folks from multiple other State agencies working with us seven days a week. So our center is open seven days a week. I've got staff from other agencies supporting us seven days a week with great support from our governor's office.

I had to realize that one of the key areas that was not my strength and where I needed to hand off some work was in the social media and website development area. And so our State Government Information Center, which manages the State's website, stepped up and helped us design a really nice page for Coronavirus information. And bringing in people from other agencies and being able to really apply that to other people allows me to take two days off a week. Because as much as I'm a communications person, I'm also a working mom with a six year old who doesn't understand mommy job is really important and I need to help other people. So I need to make sure that I'm able to take time for my family and take care of mine in theirs as well. And I had to very early on let go of any notion that I could take care of this just within the health agency was probably the smartest decision that I ever made.

Christina Deidesheimer: Well, Lisa, I'll just, I've got two more quick thoughts and then I'll, and then I'll stop talking. But I wanted to share particularly for perhaps some smaller health systems or some smaller hospitals who might listen. When I talk about using relationships that you might have within your health system, just to give some examples. I reached out to our organizational development team. So if folks have an education team, they're helping us tell that story. So I handed off that project to them to kind of leverage everybody in the community who wants to help everybody internally who's telling the story. We have someone in our volunteer team who's been assigned to us to help with communication. So those are just some examples of that. And then we are also, we recognize that we have to answer questions from a large amount of people and they're in different audiences. So we have to answer our internal teams, we have to answer questions from providers, we have to answer questions from our donors for our foundation, and we have to answer questions from the general public. And those are very unique audiences that are going to have different questions and we're social distancing so we can't, you know, have a press conference and have everyone crowd together. So we're being innovative with technology that we already have and we're hosting virtual town halls for everybody. And so that's something else for folks to think about is really to just look at what you already have and how you might be able to use it in new and innovative ways during this crisis.

Host: Wonderful. Thank you so much Andrea and Christina for taking time out of your busy schedules to share your great partnership and community efforts around COVID-19. You shared some great ideas and advice today and we are just so grateful for the important work you are all doing, so thank you for that. I do want to direct those listening that for general updates and resources on COVID-19 you can visit and you can also visit for a collection of specific COVID-19 resources including interviews like this one today with Christina and Andrea. To connect with Christina and other SHSMD members. Please also head to my SHSMD Online community at as we are continuing to look for stories and compassion, understanding and great work being done. You have a story or a resource to share. Please email and just remember we are all in this together and grateful for all the great work you are doing. That closes out today. Andrew and Christina, thank you so much. Wishing you good health and hopefully some rest in the coming weeks. Thank you for the work you're doing.

Christina Deidesheimer: Thanks for having us.

Andrea Wojcik: Thank you.

Bill Klaproth: Thanks for listening and know that we are thinking of you during these unprecedented times. For general updates and resources on COVID-19 head to and visit for a collection of specific COVID-19 resources for strategists.