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Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations
be important to monitor trends in gap opening and closing according to these categories.
However, because demographic groupings are limited and crude categories with relatively little explanatory power, they should be avoided as markers for designing health communication strategies or developing health messages. Instead, researchers and practitioners should identify and operationalize the particulars associated with a group’s life experiences, attitudes, and behaviors in designing and assessing health communication strategies.
Health communication strategies focusing on demographically diverse populations must be based on a recognition that demographic groupings represent a constellation of individuals with shared and unique life experiences, social processes, and cultural artifacts, and that the examination of these particulars as they impact individuals is important to understanding the context for health communication.
Health communication strategies and health messages must be informed by an understanding of the sociocultural environment of individuals within populations to be reached. Economic contexts, discrimination, and community resources such as access to health services are some of the important aspects of the sociocultural environment. These contextual factors have implications for the commonly held attitudes, norms, efficacy beliefs, and practices pertinent to the health issue in question.
We recommend that greater support be provided for qualitative research that examines the historical, social, and cultural contexts of communities’ health behavior. Such research should be designed to result in greater understanding of the implications of cultural factors and processes on effective health communications, and lead to more efficient ways of assessing relevant cultural processes in health communication interventions. A focus on qualitative ethnographic studies is likely to be required to identify cultural processes relevant to health communication, but it is also important to develop strategies that permit those processes to be reflected in large-scale health communication interventions.