Handbook of Health Communication

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

27
Opportunities for Health
Communication Scholarship
to Shape Public Health Policy
and Practice: Examples from
the National Cancer Institute
Gary L. Kreps
National Cancer Institute

COMMUNICATION AND PUBLIC HEALTH

Health communication is a central process that performs essential functions in the delivery of health care and the promotion of public health. The United States Department of Health and Human Services highlights the powerful influences of communication on public health in the important publication Healthy People 2010: Objectives for Improving Health (1999), with a chapter dedicated to health communication (chapter 11). The chapter describes the breadth of influence that communication can have on health, explaining:

health communication can contribute to all aspects of disease prevention and health promotion and is relevant in a number of contexts, including (1) health professional-patient relations; (2) individuals' exposure to, search for, and use of health information; (3) individuals' adherence to clinical recommendations and regimens; (4) the construction of public health messages and campaigns; (5) the dissemination of individual and population health risk information, that is, risk communication; (6) images of health in the mass media and the culture at large; (7) the education of consumers about how to gain access to the public health and health care systems; and (8) the development of tele-health applications. (pp. 11–13)

It is a very exciting time for health communication inquiry, and communication is a potentially propitious area for public health research and intervention.

A large body of health communication literature has demonstrated the powerful influences of communication interventions on a broad range of health behaviors and health outcomes. For example, Kreps and O'Hair (1995) reported a series of studies showing the influences of intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, organizational, and societal communications on health knowledge, behaviors, and outcomes. Similarly, Greenfield,

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