Understanding Our Body Through Effective Health Communication, by Aishat M. Abisola
When a person thinks about how medical information is made available for the general public to view, they don’t really pay much attention to the name or logistics that are involved in this constructive process. I found that to be odd, as for every type of practice or study that is known about, there is always a name and definition
Just a couple of weeks ago, I got curious about this and wondered about whether there was a name for this. I did some research and was able to come across this phrase; “Health Communication”.
Health Communication refers to the study or practice of communicating anything involved in the promotion of health communication. This includes but is not limited to; health education, communication between a doctor and their patient as well as public health campaigns that are happening across the globe on a daily basis. Others are risk communication, outbreak communication, and health and policy advocacy among others.
By reading deeply and scratching beyond the surface, I came to realize that Health Communication was a special and particular form of healthcare which has certain communication strategies that professionals use to inform the public and influence their decisions to improve their health. This can be achieved through brochures, public meetings with health professionals, internet (mass media), and newspaper advertisements.
Some of the campaigns targeted at Health Communication which I happened to witness include; general health wellness campaigns, Cancer and HIV/AIDS campaigns, and campaigns for COVID-19.
It was noticed that most of the studies suggested that both verbal and nonverbal communication between healthcare professionals and patients could lead to improved health outcomes.
Meanwhile, the effect of health communication on the general public usually depends on the type of audience, effectiveness of the message given, and the size of the communication environment. Some members of the audience can be more receptive to the message than others.
Although the benefits of Health Communication can never be downplayed, there are also challenges associated with the process which tends to limit the campaign effectiveness. The major ones have to do with the literacy-communication gap and the use of proper mass media.
The literacy-communication gap is only due to the lack of understanding about medical jargon. Even though the purpose of health communication is to create health-literacy, unexplained medical jargon and vague answers hinders the success of the process.
On the other hand, mass media causes false misinformation about health communication to spread quickly. One example is that of the American antivaxxers who believe that vaccines can give children autism and that the COVID-19 vaccine is a hoax.
In order to have a successful health crusade, no doubt, there is a need for formidable Health Communication Societies whose members can serve as the agents for dissemination of information across various channels. These societies include; the International Communication Association, The American Public Health Association, and the Society For Health Communication among others.
It is gratifying that I was able to join the “Society For Health Communication” at a time when they were given a free membership. At
It is apparent that many health aspects would not have been revealed to the world for the public if not for the role of Health Communication. In the past, there were many things that are harmful to the body and people were ignorant about that. However, Health Communication has since bridged that gap existing between health professionals and their patients thereby making it easier for them to understand what was wrong and how to correct it.
Nevertheless, in order to have an excellent grasp of effective Health Communication, people who do not understand medical jargon or are easily swayed by misinformation from the mass media on health issues, should therefore broaden their scope by extensive research of information from credible sources of Health Communication.
Aishat M. Abisola is a member of the Society for Health Communication
Wuye District, Abuja