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Speaking of Health: Assessing Health Communication Strategies for Diverse Populations
communication programs do now to serve the diverse audiences they must address? How might what they do be improved?
In the process of examining this central question, the committee addressed a series of closely related questions:
What is the role of theory in the construction of communication programs in the context of diversity? In particular, is there a need to modify theory for different subgroups of the population?
Given concerns about diversity, do special ethical issues arise in health communication?
Is the promise of communication and diversity different according to the health behavior(s) and disease process addressed? Is there evidence that targeting or tailoring messages for different cultural groups makes a difference in the effects of these messages on behavior change? The committee contrasted two important cases to help us consider this issue. Mammography was chosen to represent a discrete behavior that is recommended to occur every year or two for women age 40 and over; it is relevant to a large segment of the healthy population. Diabetes was selected as a contrast. Its treatment requires a complex set of continuing behaviors that is responsive to an evolving illness and relevant to those who have the illness and those around them.
Large-scale communication campaigns are widely used as a mechanism for affecting the behaviors of broad populations when risk is widespread. Thus, as a third area of focus, the committee considered evidence from such large-scale campaigns. What is known about the best ways of constructing such programs in the context of diversity?
The application of newer communication technologies to the problems of health promotion has an extraordinary dynamism. What are the implications of the rapid development of new technology-based health behavior interventions for the health of diverse audiences?
How helpful are the conventional categories of diversity in constructing communication interventions? Are there other, more useful, approaches to thinking about diversity?