MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Martin Horak

Geographical Areas



Local Public Health Units play a key role in mitigating the spread of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to leverage the prevalent information communication technologies including social media to communicate with citizens. The aim of this research paper is to conduct a comparative analysis of how methods and content of communication practices across Ontario Public Health Units have differed during the COVID-19 pandemic and explore possible reasons why. Due to the nature of this research being exploratory, a Grounded Theory approach was used. Content analysis included a systematic review of 10 of the 34 public health units’ social media information. Four communication-related themes emerged: engagement/bidirectional exchange with citizens, use of data to establish trust, localized response based on COVID-19 prevalence rates, and message alignment with other levels of government. Findings show that some of this variation can be explained due to differences in administrative structure (autonomous vs regional/single-tier), rural/urban environment, COVID-19 prevalence differences and time. These findings do not unilaterally show autonomous public health units are able to carry out their functions better. However, the existence of variation among communication methods and content between differing administrative structures and varying rural/urban environments indicate that these factors have an impact on communication.