Why Health Communication is Important for Public Health

Health Communication

According to Parrott, the allocation of a chapter in the USA’s Healthy People 2010 objectives to health communication illustrates the growing importance of this industry. In the objectives, which are set out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health communication is quickly becoming increasingly more relevant to virtually every aspect of human health and well-being. This includes disease prevention, quality of life, and health promotion. The increase in the prominence of this field comes at the same time as other important developments which focus on the study of social, environmental and psychological influences on health. So, why is health communication so important in public health?

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Exchanging Information

There is no doubt that communication is at the heart of human society. Communication is our way of exchanging information with one another along with being a key means of signifying our symbolic capability. These two separate functions reflect both the transmission and ritualistic views of communication. Communication does not only serve an instrumental role in allowing us to gain and process more information, it also has a very ritualistic function which reflects humans as members of a social community. Therefore, communication can be described as the symbolic exchange of shared meaning or information, which also has a ritualistic component to it.

Changing Behaviors

Intervention efforts to change certain behaviors are acts of communication, and are very useful in a healthcare setting when it comes to treating patients over a long-term basis and helping them to develop new, healthier habits. From a healthcare point of view, it is important to think carefully when it comes to the various channels via which these intervening messages are distributed, to whom the message is being given, and how the members of your audience respond to the communication. A health communication degree course covers topics relating to marketing and public relations in regards to health care.

Complexity

Health communication is a fascinating, yet very complex field. Use of the basic communication principles in a healthcare setting or in public health can present a range of challenges, for example the evaluation of communication interventions, which does not usually lend itself well to randomized trials – especially those which are distributed using national mass media such as radio or television. In order to attribute observed outcomes to efforts of intervention, creative statistical and methodological techniques are required. Since health communication interactions have both a transactional and responsive nature, modification in the intervention content can often occur, presenting additional challenges to add to the evaluation process.

Field Growth

Health communication has a great deal to contribute to the healthcare and public health industries. The emphasis on combining both theory and practice when it comes to understanding the processes of communication and impacting human behavior has led to the field gaining wider recognition. At a time where many threats to global public health, through environmental crises and disease, are rooted in human behavior, this combined approach is the most appropriate.

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Healthcare communication plays a huge part in understanding how and why we communicate and how this can be used to promote behavioral changes.

 

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