Communication is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to foster public and individual health and safety. With effective communication we can prevent illnesses and injuries instead of having to treat them, and provide people with advice and recommendations to help them stay healthy. Health protection messages may be delivered through traditional mass media, interactive new technologies, or through interpersonal contact. Clear and timely communication between health service providers and individuals seeking health information, treatment, or support can improve the quality and effectiveness of care.
Researchers at the CHRC are interested in many facets of health and risk communication. Their interest and expertise includes examining how target audiences make health-related decisions, the factors that influence or persuade people to adopt health advice and recommendations and how new technologies can increase attention to and understanding of health-related risks. CHRC researchers use this knowledge to create and evaluate messages, materials and approaches that will get an audience’s attention and produce results. For example, since teenagers tend to react according to feelings over logic, rational messages about the health risks of smoking may have less of an impact than ones that produce an emotional reaction.
The CHRC has a particular commitment to research and activities designed to reduce health disparities by adapting communication to diverse populations. Reaching and effectively communicating with different racial and ethnic populations often requires in-depth understanding and tailoring of campaigns and messages so that they address the specific concerns and interests of those populations.
Currently, CHRC researchers are working on communication projects that encompass disease prevention and health promotion. Specific efforts include fostering vaccine and immunization acceptance and confidence; the use of health and risk communication, including new communication technologies, to prevent and reduce obesity and overweight; and identifying the best public health communication efforts in an effort to identify “best practices.” Interdisciplinary connections among Center for Health and Risk Communications researchers and with researchers in other biomedical and health sciences are essential to this enterprise.