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Health Communication in the Twenty First Century

Key Characteristics and Defining Features Health communication is about improving health outcomes by encouraging behavior modification and social change. It is increasingly considered an integral part of most public health interventions (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005; Bernhardt, 2004).

It is a comprehensive approach that relies on the full understanding and involvement of its target audiences. WHAT IS HEALTH COMMUNICATION? 7 Schiavo.c01 2/19/07 1:30 PM Page 7 8 HEALTH COMMUNICATION: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE Table 1.1. Health Communication Definitions Key Words Definitions To inform and “Health communication is a key strategy to influence (individual inform the public about health concerns and and community) to maintain important health issues on the decisions public agenda” (New South Wales Department of Health, Australia, 2006).

“The study or use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health” (CDC, 2001; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005). Health communication is a “means to disease prevention through behavior modification” (Freimuth, Linnan, and Potter, 2000, p. 337). It has been defined as the study and use of methods to inform and influence [italics added throughout table] individual and community decisions that enhance health”

(Freimuth, Linnan, and Potter, 2000, p. 338; Freimuth, Cole, and Kirby, 2000, p. 475). “Health communication is a process for the development and diffusion of messages to specific audiences in order to influence their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs in favor of healthy behavioral choices” (Exchange, 2006; Smith and Hornik, 1999).

Finally

“Health communication is the use of communication techniques and technologies to (positively) influence individuals, populations, and organizations for the purpose of promoting conditions conducive to human and environmental health” (Maibach and Holtgrave, 1995, pp. 219–220; Health Communication Unit, 2006). “It may include diverse activities such as clinician-patient interactions, classes, self-help groups, mailings, hot lines, mass media campaigns, and events” (Health Communication Unit, 2006)

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