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Health Communication for Public Health Leaders

Key Elements of Health Communication that are Essential for a Public Health Leader

Health communication is an important aspect of public health leadership (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). The Center for Disease Control has contributed to the general understanding of the key elements of health communication, which are essential for public health leadership (CDC, 2011). It says the key elements of health communication are:

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Defining the Problem – The CDC (2011) says defining a problem is a key element of health communication. Laureate Education, Inc. (2011) adds that it should inform the first steps of the communication strategy. Here, the public health leader should answer this question – “what is out there?” before embarking on other forms of communication (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). For example, when there was a public health outbreak in Philadelphia in 1976, the first communication strategy of CDC (2011) was going to the area and defining what was going on. They made this action before releasing any information to the public.

Identifying the Message and the Intended Influence on the Public – The Center for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute say it is important for health care leaders to identify the type of message a public health leader should communicate to the public and how it would affect the behavioral patterns of the population (CDC, 2011). This step is important because most public health messages aim to influence people’s behaviors (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). For example, when there was an H1N1 epidemic (bird flu) in 2009, the CDC (2011) designed its public health message after paying attention to how the message would influence public behavior. Comprehensively, the two elements of health communication described in this paper are included in multiple behavioral and social theories about health communication (Dunn 2012; Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).

Trends in Health Communication that may Influence my Role as a Public Health Leader

In the last decade, health communication has evolved because of changes in technology and patient involvement in their well-being (Dunn 2012). These factors have created new trends in health communication. Two dominant trends appear below.

Increasing Role of Social Media in Health Care Communication – Since 2011, experts have observed an increasing number of well-informed patients who are willing to improve their health (Dunn 2012). Part of this growing phenomenon is an increased number of people who are willing to get health information online. For example, Dunn (2012) says 80% of internet users looked for health information online. Most of them shared their health information on this platform and sought help in the same regard (Dunn 2012). Physicians are also contributing to the “virtual migration” by using social media for their professional activities. Since physicians and customers would merge in this regard, observers predict there will be closer relationships between physicians and customers (Dunn 2012). Social media will play a pivotal role in bringing these parties together. Health communication will concentrate on this platform too.

Focus on Measuring Success

For a long time, health workers have measured their success through impressions and equivalency. However, this measure is slowly changing through a new trend where the same professionals measure their success through sales, new partnerships, and other tangible measures of success in health communication. Relative to this discussion, Dunn (2012) clarifies, “The function as a whole will be moving from measuring outputs (number of interviews and stories, press releases placed, and website visits) to outtakes (changes in awareness, opinion, and behavior that impact a company’s business objectives)” (p. 4). Based on this trend, most public health leaders would have to show the effects of their health communication strategies through tangible metrics.

How I Would Use Health Communication in a Future Public Health Campaign

People have used health communication for different types of activities. Commonly, public health workers have used it for health education, public health campaigns, and health promotion (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). Based on these limited applications of health communication, I would use them for future public health campaigns by increasing the demand and support for specific health services. This application is useful today because governments have to prioritize their spending expenditures in line with growing public needs and limited resources. Health communication would allow citizens to understand the importance of specific health care services, thereby informing policy actions.

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References

CDC. (2011). What is Health Communications? Web.

Dunn, N. (2012). 4 health care communications trends you can’t ignore in 2012. Web.

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Introduction to communications, marketing, and public relations for public health leaders. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Education, Inc.

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