Health Communications Specialist
Health Communication is a rapidly growing and exciting area in the area of healthcare. The CDC and the National Cancer Institute define health communication as: “The study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual decisions that enhance health,” (CDC, 2013; NCI, 2013). Health communication draws on the work of academic scholars and practitioners in the science, and social science disciplines. Health communication professionals create and use products, programs or other interventions to promote health behavior changes in individuals and communities using scientific and consumer-based market research.
Health outcomes depend significantly way on the way we communicate – in our relationships, with healthcare providers, with healthcare organizations, via social media, and through the global media. Health communication uses communication strategies, methods, programs, and interventions to inform and influence individual and public decisions that enhance health outcomes. Specialists in this area provide communication and marketing information to the public. They develop, implement, and manage national communication and marketing programs for a variety of audiences. They also provide expertise, conduct audience research, and perform program evaluation – working closely with the public health, mental health, global health, and community health fields.
Health communication is a relatively new and attractive major for health professionals seeking advanced credentials, or for those wanting to enter a health-related profession. Programs focus on strategic communication science methods for addressing public health issues. Coursework includes learning multiple behavioral and social learning theories and models, applying advanced program planning techniques, research, and identifying ways to influence and change people’s attitudes and behavior.
A bachelor’s degree health communication prepares students for careers in hospital administration, health care promotion and assessment, media relations, non-profit service administration, corporate and community fitness programs, and recovery programs. Courses in applied health, advocacy and communications theory emphasize written and oral communication skills and teach students how to communicate in the most meaningful and effective ways. This coursework is also beneficial for nursing and pharmacy students, allied health students, and looking to work in nursing homes and hospitals.
Several prestigious universities offer graduate programs in health communication. At the graduate level, courses in research methods, family communications, health informatics, health policy, health campaigns, social marketing, and patient-provider communications. Students are also required to complete a capstone project or thesis. Program graduates pursue careers in healthcare organizations and public health areas as communication consultants, operations directors, patient & family advocates, patient educators, pharmaceutical sales managers, researchers, PR directors, HR managers, training specialists, non-profit managers, and directors of social services programs.
by Linda Bright
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The National Cancer Institute: Health Communications Internship Programs
Health Communications Specialist
The University of Illinois – Master of Science in Health Communications
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