What is Health Communication?

Health communication includes verbal and written strategies to influence behaviour and empower individuals, populations, and communities to make healthier choices. Health communication often integrates components of social communication because our behaviours and reaction to them is largely influenced by the society we live in. 

Effective health communication includes the following components:

  • Use of research-based strategies to shape materials and products and to select the channels that deliver them to the intended audience.
  • Understanding of the society and what is acceptable to them; the concepts of life & behaviour, language, cultures and settings.
  • Consideration of health literacy, internet access, media exposure, and cultural competency of target populations.
  • Development of materials such as brochures, billboards, newspaper articles, television broadcasts, radio commercials, public service announcements, newsletters, pamphlets, videos, digital tools, case studies, group discussions, health fairs, field trips, and workbooks among others media outlets.

Using a variety of communication channels can allow health messages to shape mass media or interpersonal, small group, or community level campaigns. Health communication strategies aim to change people’s knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviors; for example:

  • Increase risk perception
  • Reinforce positive behaviors
  • Influence social norms
  • Increase availability of support and needed services
  • Empower individuals to change or improve their health conditions

Examples of media strategies to convey health messages include the following components:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Newspaper
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Internet
  • Social media tools (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube)

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