The Field of Health Communication, and What It Can Do for Your Career

You don’t have to be a physician to play a crucial human-centered role in the health care field which positively impacts lives. A lesser-known but increasingly important health-related discipline is Health Communication.

What Exactly is Health Communication?
Health communicators research, develop, and execute communicative practices and persuasive strategies intended to help people start, stop, or modify behaviors associated with good health. For example, health communication experts at the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) draw on the work of scholars and practitioners in a wide range of sciences and disciplines, using multiple behavioral and social learning models to influence individual/societal attitudes and behaviors. Entire programs of health communication are created to directly address imposing health challenges like Zika, AIDS, opioid abuse, and other issues, both domestically and internationally.

What do health communication specialists hope to accomplish? In lesser developed parts of the world, health problems such as HIV/AIDS or infant mortality are massively compounded by such factors as low literacy rates, lack of public health funding, cultural taboos, and poor communication infrastructure, all health communication-oriented problems. In one example, studies in Pakistan and Uganda show how health-care clinical and communicative interventions are predicted to prevent an astonishing 20-30% of all maternal deaths, 20-21% of newborn deaths, and 29-40% of all post-neonatal deaths in children aged less than 5 years. This is the kind of profound impact that health communicators have on those in need of information, education, and guidance.

"Health communicators research, develop, and execute communicative practices and persuasive strategies intended to help people start, stop, or modify behaviors associated with good health."

In the U.S., chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are responsible for 7 of every 10 deaths each year and account for 75% of the nation’s health spending. These diseases are largely preventable when those at risk are informed. However, nationally, Americans use preventive services at only about half the recommended rate. That number improves significantly when well-conceived health communication campaigns are implemented.

Simply put, whenever and wherever there is effective health communication, either by itself or in combination with improved clinical practices, there is almost always better health.

The Health Communication Career of Assistant Professor Julie Volkman, Ph.D. is Instructive.
The career of Dr. Julie Volkman of Bryant University’s graduate faculty aptly reflects opportunities in the field. Julie holds a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and is a well-known educator, researcher, and published author, with prior background as a health scientist with the Veteran’s Administration, and as a faculty member in a division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

She has worked recently with fellow Bryant University faculty and students on smoking cessation, vaccine hesitancy, messages associated with breast cancer aimed at college-aged women, and other projects.

If you can imagine a rewarding career in health care that positively impacts others, graduate students in Bryant's Health Communication track collaborate directly with Dr. Volkman. Questions? She would be delighted to hear from you at [email protected] or 401-232-0436.

You can enter the M.A. in Communication program and the Health Communication field with any undergraduate degree. 

FOR MORE ON HEALTH COMMUNICATION:
Take a look at publications such as the Journal of Health Communication in which you’ll find current health communication issues: mental illness stigma generated by entertainment media, skin cancer risk of tanning, patient-centered communication and improved health outcomes, the influence of college social networks and non-relationship sex, just to cite a few recent articles.

 

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