Handbook of Health Communication

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

21
Looking Toward the
Future: Health Message
Design Strategies
Lisa Murray-Johnson
The Ohio State University
Kim Witte
Michigan State University

Thompson (1984) once noted that “too many researchers start from scratch rather than investigating variables that may moderate processes uncovered in earlier research” (p. 149). Heeding her wisdom, this chapter identifies and delineates the overlapping variables important in several mainstream health communication theories and models and places them within a message design framework. Some of the most commonly used theories that define how to create messages to motivate health-related behavior changes include the Health Belief Model (Janz & Becker, 1984; Rosenstock, 1974a, 1974b), the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; 1981), Social Cognitive Theory (also known as Social Learning Theory) (Bandura, 1977), the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991), and the Extended Parallel Process Model (Witte, 1992a). Although some of these health behavior theories continue to be criticized for (a) excluding social and environmental factors, (b) utilizing a unidirectional flow of information without regard for interactivity, (c) lack of feasibility (e.g., political or financial), and (d) limited applicability to certain audiences (Hochbaum, Sorenson, & Loring, 1992), using the guidance of a theory in message design can save time, money, and resources.


COMMONALITIES ACROSS THE THEORIES

When looking across these theories, several commonalities emerge (Witte, Meyer, & Martell, 2001). Specifically, there appear to be at least four categories of health communication variables that work together in a predictable manner. Most health communication theories focus on stimuli that trigger the motivation in an individual to perform an action (outcome variable) that is influenced by the individual's appraisal of the environment and resources. Stimuli are the materials, actions, or procedures health message designers use to get receivers to attend to their message (Atkin & Freimuth, 1989). Motivation is the

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