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Health communication research applies communication theory, concepts, and strategies with the goal of improving public health.

Health communication scholarship is primarily situated within the fields of communication and public health, although researchers draw on theoretical approaches from allied disciplines, including psychology, sociology, marketing, and public policy, and make use of both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Through these varied approaches, researchers have shown that communication can play a critical role in:

  • Promoting health and preventing disease
  • Improving the quality of health care and health outcomes
  • Influencing public opinion about health policies
  • Mobilizing the public and the community about issues of public health in both normal and crisis periods
  • Addressing the public health mission of safeguarding the nation’s health

Moreover, there is evidence that individuals can benefit from effective health communication through raised awareness of health risks and solutions, increased ability to seek support from other individuals or institutions, and revised attitudes and beliefs surrounding health behaviors.

Some studies explore the effects of health-related information on individuals, communities, and institutions. These effects may result from planned communications—for example, in the form of media campaigns—or from routine exposure to the public information environment, including mass media, Internet, advertising, and health professionals.

Additionally, health communication research considers:

  • How individuals process health-related messages
  • How social context influences message reception
  • How patient-clinician communication and other types of interpersonal communication influence health beliefs and behaviors
Updated on April 25, 2013
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A systematic and focused approach to research and application of findings in policy and practice is needed to assure that exciting and promising developments in e-health benefit all members of society.

K Viswanath
American Journal of Preventive Medicine