Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

12
Working along the Margins:
Developing Community-Based
Strategies for Communicating
about Health with
Marginalized Groups
Leigh Arden Ford
Western Michigan University
Gust A. Yep
San Francisco State University

The complexities of health-related communication research and practice in community and with community are the foci of this chapter. As scholars and members of multiple communities, some marginalized and some not, we are committed to the ideology and principles of community-based health communication scholarship that we will describe in these pages. Because of these commitments, we begin with a narrative describing a community-based health communication strategy that fell short of these commitments. Our purpose in this narrative of failure is not to discourage community-based collaborative scholarship. Rather, we hope it illustrates how readily and unconsciously privilege may be enacted and marginalization experienced in such efforts. While we each have stories to tell, one of Leigh's experiences with hantavirus prevention education in the U. S.-Mexico border region (USMBR) follows.

In the summer 1993, several sudden deaths from severe lung infections among otherwise healthy adults were reported in the southwestern United States. Led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teams of research scientists soon identified the infection as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), caused by one of the several hantaviruses in the world.1 With the identification of the virus (now named Sin nombre), the CDC undertook a focused effort to further scientific research on the transmission

____________________
1
This particular hantavirus is spread to humans by infected rodents, specifically deer mice and cotton rats in the southwestern United States. When fresh or dried rodent urine or feces sheds the virus it becomes airborne. The aerosolized virus then can be inhaled by the human host and a lung infection ensues (CDC, 1994). While HPS is a serious public health threat because it is difficult to diagnose, has no known cure, and is fatal in approximately half the cases, it is also preventable through the enactment of simple, relatively inexpensive measures.

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