Healthy Mind, Healthy Body: Unique Initiative Helps Counter Pandemic Stress

As COVID-19 continues to impact daily life, the accompanying stress, isolation and uncertainty many face have raised concerns about the mental health impacts of the pandemic.

To address those concerns, the CDC Foundation supported the How Right Now/Que Hacer Ahora campaign. Developed in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NORC at the University of Chicago, an objective, nonpartisan research organization, How Right Now connects communities with mental health resources to help those dealing with stress and worry.

“The How Right Now website is really oriented around helping people self-assess what they are going through, and then access tailored resources that can be helpful to them,” said Amelia Burke-Garcia, PhD, a program area director at NORC. “We really wanted to make sure that everything we were putting out was based in science, so all of the content was vetted by a panel of clinical experts who collaborated with the campaign.”

Visitors to the How Right Now website can find help on dealing with a range of emotions such as grief and worry and starting conversations with loved ones about what they are going through. To engage with users from wide ranging age, social and economic groups, the site links to content from resources as diverse as the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the American Association of Retired Persons. The site also offers more practical support for those affected financially by the pandemic, an important component of the How Right Now campaign.

“We wanted to make sure we offered resources that addressed both mental health needs and basic needs,” Burke-Garcia said. “We link to help lines, job resources and crisis resources, because we really wanted to address both levels of need.”

Launched in August 2020, How Right Now was initially developed to support people’s needs during the early months of the pandemic. Because the focus from the outset was always to provide low-cost and easily accessible resources people could use in their daily lives, the campaign was built to remain flexible to realities on the ground, relying on ongoing data collection to inform messaging and content changes as the pandemic evolved.

“We found that the nimble and adaptive approach that we took helped increase the reach of the campaign overall,” said Burke-Garcia. “Every time we made a strategic shift to adapt to circumstances, it helped more people engage with the resources.”

It has been the honor of my career to lead this campaign and see the positive effects it has had, especially during such a challenging time in our history.

To measure the impact of the campaign, How Right Now’s evaluation team synthesized the data collected from the campaign’s social, website and media outreach, and conducted national surveys to monitor shifts in public perception of the pandemic and to gauge audience feedback on the campaign’s messages. That information was then analyzed to determine how the How Right Now messaging impacted users. The results, Burke-Garcia said, showed that How Right Now reached people where and when they needed information and had overwhelmingly positive effects on audiences’ ability to be resilient, particularly among those groups reporting the highest levels of stress.

“We received feedback that there was an increase in intention for people to get involved in their communities,” Burke-Garcia said. “We found that communities exposed to messages reported higher rates of resiliency and coping.”

The success of the first phase of the campaign has paved the way for a new phase targeted specifically toward communities of color and groups that have historically been hardest hit by social inequities. Going forward, Burke-Garcia says, How Right Now will continue to adapt its messaging and resources to the shifting realities of the pandemic to serve as a critical resource for those impacted most by stress and anxiety. The work, she says, has been rewarding.

“It has been the honor of my career to lead this campaign and see the positive effects it has had,” Burke-Garcia said. “Especially during such a challenging time in our history.”


How Right Now was made possible in part by the generous support from organizational and individual donors to the CDC Foundation.

Learn more about our response efforts: visit the 2021 Donor Report