How Attributes of Place Threaten Community Trust in the American South: Opportunities for Improving Pandemic-Related Communication

J Health Commun. 2023 Apr 7;28(sup1):67-75. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2023.2187484. Epub 2023 Mar 10.


Trust and mistrust influence the utilization of health services, the quality of overall healthcare, and the prevalence of health disparities. Trust has significant bearing on how communities, and the individuals within them, perceive health information and recommendations. The People and Places Framework is utilized to answer what attributes of place threaten community trust in public health and medical recommendations.Augusta-Richmond County is ranked among the least healthy counties in Georgia despite being home to the best healthcare-to-residence ratios and a vast array of healthcare services. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 31 neighborhood residents. Data were analyzed using the Sort & Sift, Think & Shift method. Threats to community trust were identified within four local-level attributes of place: availability of products and services, social structures, physical structures, and cultural and media messages. We found a broader web of services, policies, and institutions, beyond interactions with health care, that influence the trust placed in health officials and institutions. Participants spoke to both a potential lack of trust (e.g. needs not being met, as through lack of access to services) and mistrust (e.g. negative motives, such as profit seeking or experimentation). Across the four attributes of place, residents expressed opportunities to build trust. Our findings highlight the importance of examining trust at the community level, providing insight into an array of factors that impact trust at a local level, and extend the work on trust and its related constructs (e.g. mistrust). Implications for improving pandemic-related communication through community relationship building are presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Facilities and Services Utilization
  • Georgia
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Southeastern United States
  • Trust*