cess to information by poor, illiterate people (Ward, 2001). Today’s children and adolescents are growing up with fast-paced, high-tech computer games and television shows and movies that look like the games and vice versa. They will have a facility with computers that few of today’s health professionals have developed. Moreover, their expectation for high production quality will raise the standards for health information. To compete, health communication professionals will have to partner with experts in areas such as marketing, computer design, and computer games.
To imagine health communications of the future, one can rely on both a theoretical basis and growing evidence. Undoubtedly, there will be more tailored health communication of every type, using a variety of media and formats. This communication will be increasingly interactive and based on theory-relevant variables as well as other variables, such as cultural factors appropriate to specific behavior. Ideally, this new health communication will complement other communication strategies, such as mass media, social network interventions, policies, and provider counseling. The convergence of mass media and new techniques could permit social-level attention to health issues, with the potential to individualize programs through tailored interventions. The combination of mass and micro media could produce synergistic effects leading to greater behavioral impact.
However, we must express appropriate caution. Funding of most health communication research relies on processes that are too slow to accommodate the speed of technology development. Some attempts have been made to correct this problem in other fields, and new approaches should be developed for health communication as well. In addition, public health efforts must compete with much more remunerative private health efforts. Programming and design talent are critical to creating programs that will compete in a sophisticated and information-rich environment, yet such personnel often demand salaries that exceed existing university structures. These concerns could be assuaged by greater collaboration with the private sector and by some creative restructuring of funding mechanisms that support such research.