Health Communication: Theory and Practice

Health Communication: Theory and Practice

Health Communication: Theory and Practice

Health Communication: Theory and Practice

Excerpt

Two years ago, I published a book on risk communication and health. When I came to the end of it, I realized that there was still much more that needed to be said about other aspects of health communication. This realization, and its ready acceptance by others, led to the decision to write the current book.

I have been working in the area of health communication for about 20 years now, and I am still deeply interested in it. During this period, the importance of effective health communication has become increasingly recognized, yet we are still exposed to numerous examples of poor and inadequate health communications. These may be from our personal dealings with healthcare providers of various sorts, or they may be via the media and other similar channels. Rarely a week goes by when the media do not inform us about some new health scare, and all too often the information is misleading, confusing, or poorly presented in some other way.

The topic of communication has always fascinated me. Maybe this is why all of my school reports mentioned the fact that I talked too much; from my first report, when I was 5, that referred to me as a 'chatterbox', to the last one when I was 16, which stated that I was 'far too gregarious'. The descriptors changed over the years, but the basic message was the same.

Communication is a fundamental process. In fact, it is virtually impossible not to communicate at all; even a non-response sends a message. On the one hand, communication seems effortless; yet things can easily go wrong, sometimes with serious consequences. A breakdown of communication has often been said to be the cause of personal relationships breaking up, particularly after some serious, challenging event has occurred, such as the loss of a child. In such cases two, or a small number of, people's lives may be adversely affected. At another level, however, large numbers of people can be adversely affected by inadequate communication that takes place as part of official public health campaigns or biased and sensationalized media reports of health-related matters.

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