Approach to Health Promotion
Attributes of Effective Health Communication
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001).
The environment for communicating about health has changed significantly. These changes include dramatic increases in the number of communication channels and the number of health issues vying for public attention, as well as consumer demands for more and better quality health information and the increased sophistication of marketing and sales techniques, such as direct-to- consumer advertising of prescription drugs and sales of medical devices and medications over the Internet.
The expansion of communication channels and health issues on the public agenda increases competition for people’s time and attention; at the same time, people have more opportunities to select information based on their personal interests and preferences. The trend toward commercialization of the Internet suggests that the marketing models of other mass media will be applied to emerging media, which has important consequences for the ability of noncommercial and public-health-oriented communications to stand out in a cluttered information environment.
Communication occurs in a variety of contexts (e.g., school, home, and work); through a variety of channels (e.g., interpersonal, small group, organizational, community, text messages, and mass media) with a variety of messages; and for a variety of reasons. In such an environment, people do not pay attention to all communications they receive but selectively attend to and purposefully seek out information. One of the main challenges in the design of effective health communication programs is to identify the optimal contexts, channels, content, and reasons that will motivate people to pay attention to and use health information.
A one-dimensional approach to health promotion, such as reliance on mass media campaigns or other single-component communication activities, has been shown to be insufficient to achieve program goals. Successful health promotion efforts increasingly rely on multidimensional interventions to reach diverse audiences about complex health concerns, and communication is integrated from the beginning with other components, such as community-based programs, policy changes, and improvements in services and the health delivery system. Research shows that health communication best supports health promotion when multiple communication channels are used to reach specific audience segments with information that is appropriate and relevant to them.
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