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Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations
proving the Health of Diverse Populations, in response to requests from the Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health and the Board on Health Sciences Policy to examine the potential of health communication strategies to improve public health behaviors, especially among demographically and socioculturally diverse populations. Health communication strategies, for purposes of this volume, are defined as approaches that seek to persuade or motivate people to change their behavior in order to improve their health. This volume is concerned primarily with communication strategies that are designed for larger groups or the public, rather than individual persuasion strategies such as doctor-patient communication. However, the committee recognized that health communication can be initiated by a variety of sources, including health care providers, campaign developers, and individuals seeking health information.
The salience and timeliness of examining how communication strategies relate to diversity within the U.S. population are emphasized by recent federal initiatives on disparities in health. Examples include the Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health campaign, Healthy People 2010, and the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000. Although informed by the concerns about disparities raised by these initiatives, this volume adopts a considerably broader view of social and cultural differences that will be addressed briefly here and in detail in Chapter 7.
Substantial evidence exists on the relationship of diversity— mostly categorized by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and gender—and health status (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001). The less socially or politically advantaged a population group is, the more compromised its health status. There is also reasonably good evidence that health communication campaigns can influence health behavior (e.g., Hornik, 2002). However, there is little evidence on the enhanced impact of health campaigns that are planned with special attention to addressing the needs of diverse audiences. This does not mean that health communication campaigns have not taken diversity into account.