Module 1: Health Communication Strategies

1.1 Characteristics of Effective Health Communication

Effective health communication is essential because it equips the public with the tools and knowledge to respond appropriately to health crises such as flu outbreaks, HIV/AIDS, malaria etc. Some features of effective health communication include:

1.2 Barriers to Effective Health Communication

Effective health communication can be impeded by:

1.3 Strategies to Improve Health Communication(11)

Listed below are some general strategies that governmental bodies can take to enhance the quality of health communication at a macro level:

At a micro level (i.e. within organizations and communities), these are some recommendations:

In addition to the above, a wide range of tools and publications have been developed by various agencies such as the Center for Global Health Communication and Marketing to provide health communication training to healthcare workers.

It is important to think outside the box when developing health communication tools. Health communication developers often come up with creative strategies to appeal to the wider public. A simple, but creative strategy such as issuing a vaccination diploma to every child who receives a vaccination, could lead to large positive health outcomes for the community.

"...this incentive (who doesn’t like to receive a diploma?) dramatically simplifies the messages surrounding immunization. Instead of the whys and wherefores of immunization, the central message becomes, "Make sure your child receives his vaccination diploma before his first birthday." If a family has received the diploma, they are encouraged to brag about it and to be sure that each child has one. Health workers like this tool as well because of the appreciation mothers express when they receive the diploma."(15)

Identifying the Target Audiences:(16) Health communication strategies must be geared towards a clearly defined target audience in order to achieve optimal effect. There are two kinds of target audiences, namely the primary target whose behavior is to be influenced directly, and the secondary target who can influence the primary target such as a family member who makes decisions about the household or health worker with whom the primary audience comes into contact. As much information as possible should be collected about the target audiences, especially with regards to their views and understanding of disease.

"Each specific segment would know, believe, and/or do different things about behaviors related to malaria prevention and treatment. You would need to promote different solutions or strategies to address each segment's situation because each segment is likely to have different barriers to (reasons not to) and benefits for adopting those solutions."(17)

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(1) "11 Health Communication." Healthy People 2010. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid

(7) Edejer, T. T. T. (2000). Disseminating health information in developing countries: the role of the internet. Bmj, 321(7264), 797-800.

(8) Ibid.

(9) "11 Health Communication." Healthy People 2010. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

(10) Boyd, B. L., & Shaw, W. D. (1995). Unlocking Health Worker Potential: Some Creative Strategies from the Field. Academy for Educational Development, HeathCom Project.

(11) Adapted from "11 Health Communication." Healthy People 2010. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

(12) "11 Health Communication." Healthy People 2010. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

(13) See, e.g. USAID. (2010). The Workplace Guide for Managers: Avian Influenza.

(14) see for example Seidel, R., Qutteina, M., & Roberts, A. (April 2005). "Case Study of the MARAM Community Grantees: Improving the Health of Palestinian Families.";jsessionid=792D805F8521F0BE09627E7C3E508EAD?doi=

(15) Gottert, P. (2009). "Communication Building Blocks for Community-Based Programs."

(16) Change Project. (2005). "A Guide to Adapting, Developing and Producing Effective Radio Spots."

(17) Ibid.