Handbook of Health Communication

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

V
Media Issues
Roxanne Parrott

Media messages about health are ubiquitous in the 21st century, and health communicators face both opportunities and challenges associated with this reality. Perhaps the foremost theme reflected in the chapters in this section is the media's role as a specter of influence in health communication. As Korsch and Harding (1997) asserted, “The physician is no longer the only interpreter of medical knowledge” (p. 95). Furthermore, media messages about health sometimes contradict the information that physicians and health care organizations put forward.

Korsch and Harding (1997) observed that the erosion of the physician's status as sole expert began in the 1960s, when physicians ceased writing prescriptions in Latin. Contributing to this process has been the introduction of package inserts in medicines, the publication of countless health books, the broadcasting of health-related TV programs and documentaries, and the advent of the World Wide Web. As a result, health communicators must consider the different contexts for publizing health information, the likely impact of inconsistent advice, and the potential that now exists for reinforcing messages about health using a variety of media.

Salmon and Atkin introduce this section with a review of health campaigns as health promotion tools, emphasizing the long history of media use in these strategic health efforts. Their review provides a framework for understanding how to develop campaign objectives based on careful formative research. The characteristics of campaign audiences guide message, source, and channel selection, all within the scope of a campaigner's purview. Perhaps not too surprisingly, theories that address the components of campaigns are common, but theoretical frameworks to integrate these perspectives are not so readily available.

In Chapter 21, Murray-Johnson and Witte extend the discussion of strategic health message design. They describe how macro principles evolving from the health campaign literature are combined with micro principles associated with the selection of specific appeals and words to guide media message development. The latter, again, depends upon

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