Topic 2 Health Communication

“Health Communication is the science and art of using communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations”
  • Although similar communication strategies had been in practice informally for years, the term “Health Communication” was officially used for the first time in 1975 by the International Communication Association.
  • Communication is an important part of all work which concerns creating, collecting and disseminating information on health and health services, and is a premise in order to realize ideals of democracy and participation in the health field.
  • Health Communication is an area of study that examines how the use of different communication strategies can keep people informed about their health and influence their behavior so they can live healthier lives.
  • One need to remember that social networks and the relationship between people, are important for the understanding of both health behaviors, attitudes and knowledge.
  • Health Communication can refer to healthcare providers discussing information with patients, public health officials holding public meetings, nonprofit organizations hosting forums, or government agencies giving press conferences. The latter comes in the form of different media (e.g., articles, videos, pamphlets, and educational events) and is delivered on various platforms (e.g., social media, radio, websites, television).

Source: Pexels



Historically there has been a linear model with sender, message and receiver. By adding understanding and feedback imply a two-way or a multi-way communication. This cyclic process involving a series of actions. This actions are multi-directional as the general population actively seeks information from the immediate, accessible formats available, i.e., from the internet. On this basis there has created a model of communication that is no longer an expert-driven top-down model of communication,  but a non-hierarchical, horizontal form of communication.



  • This model can be expert-generated from both the top-down, but also from the bottom-up and user-generated as well as side-to-side sharing.
  • Effective health communication must involve an active collaboration transaction between the sender and receiver.

  • Health Communication is a multidisciplinary field and practice that applies communication evidence, strategy, theory, and creativity to promote behaviors, policies, and practices that advance the health and well-being of people and populations.

  • A multitude of theories can be used in the communication of health, both cognitive theories and stage-step theories. For instance, Theory of Planned Behavior and the Health Belief Model is popular in communicating health messages and in large mass communication.


  • There are two main directions in Health Communication; one is directed towards population strategies (e.g., information campaigns) and the other is about individual strategies (e.g., doctor-patient communication).
  • It comprises communication on three levels: between professionals and lay persons, between professionals, and between authorities and the population. A fourth level – communication between patients – is emerging, owing to blogs, online networks, and social media.


The most effective Health Communication strategies are:

  • Relevant and accurate
  • Unbiased and nonjudgmental
  • Culturally, religious and socioeconomically competent regarding the audience
  • Easily accessible in terms of location, language, and format
  • Actionable (providing resources and instructions that allow people to act on the given advice)
  • Balanced, recognizing both risks and benefits


Population Strategies:

Population strategies is one component of implementation of Public Health programs and Health Promotion. The use of various channels have helped to increase public awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors on a multitude of health topics, e.g., public information campaigns, health advertising, and medical television shows. It is found that people that can gain and make use of health knowledge or Health Promotion campaigns, have increased ability to manage personal health and care issues. The age of the target group influences information preferences for Health Promotion messages as language and dialect can be interpreted differently in age groups. Unfortunately, individual needs of minority ethnic and lower social-economic groups are not always met adequately in mass communication.

Examples on health commercials as a part of Health Promotional population strategies:

Individual Communication Strategies:

  • Are important parts of the care you give.

Good communication can:

Video showing the content, favorable elements and challenges in individual communication strategies for health professionals:

  • Communication should be linked to the social environment in which it is taking place.
  • A variety of social factors can affect communication such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic, education, and social relations.
  • Psychological factors are internal variables that influence a persons’ decision to perform an action or behavior, attitudes, emotions, values or beliefs.
  • People with lower social-economic status have a higher burden of disease and face more barriers to access and use information.

Source: Regjeringen

  • The more negative experiences a person had as a child, the more illness he or she will experience as an adult.
  • It has been found that people who participate in primary healthcare interventions aiming for a healthier lifestyle, are more likely to have a history of negative emotional experiences, making it hard to change.

Source: Regjeringen