Directing Health Messages toward African Americans: Attitudes toward Health Care and the Mass Media

Article excerpt

Directing Health Messages toward African Americans: A t t i t u d e s toward Health Care and the Mass Media.

Judith L. Sylvester. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. 292 pp. $72 hbk.

Disparities in the health profiles of African Americans and white Americans have been the focus of a great deal of biomedical and social scientific research. Increasingly, scholars are examining the role of culture in explaining the continuous gap between the health status of African Americans and whites. In line with this trend, Directing Health Messages Toward African Americans poses the question of whetherblack/ white differences in health attitudes and behaviors may explain the observed differences in the health status of the two groups.

In answering this complex question, Judith L. Sylvester examines a variety of issues including attitudes toward health care and the health care system, attitudes towards sources of health information, and reactions to health care messages. The intent is to determine if there are culturally distinctive attitudes that serve as barriers to African Americans receiving health care messages and/or utilizing the health care system.

In order to establish a framework within which to develop guidelines for planning and marketing health campaigns targeted toward African Americans living in urban areas, the author utilizes a multi-dimensional approach to campaign development. In addition to assessing health care problems, particularly those affecting African Americans, Sylvester synthesizes a number of communication and marketing theories in order to develop a theory-- driven approach for communicating health messages to urban African Americans.

Concluding that there is a natural linkage among social marketing, network analysis, and Q methodology, the author uses the latter to segment African American and white respondents along attitudinal rather than demographic lines. Five "q types" emerge from the audience segmentation; each of these types has a distinctive pattern of attitudes as suggested by the labels used to identify them: Equalizers, Adjusters, Preventers, Empathizers, and Fixers. A major conclusion of the author is that each type should have messages tailored specifically for that particular type.

There is a dearth of material in the field of health communication on African Americans; therefore, this volume, a revised version of the author's dissertation, is intriguing and welcomed. …