Health Communication: From Theory to Practice

Health Communication: From Theory to Practice (Schiavo, 2007), provides an in-depth evaluation of various communication channels and tactics used in healthcare communications. The book explains various communication approaches and outlines the key elements of successful health communication practices. The key elements that are applicable to the current project include explanations of common communication terms and phrases, and provide examples of how these theories are applied in healthcare.

A starting point in strategic and effective health communication is an understanding of the Health Belief Model, which is intended to explain the underlying cause of the lack of participation in programs that aided in the diagnosis or prevention of diseases. It is explained that intended audiences must understand their risk of diseases and perceive the benefits of behavior change outweigh any barriers of negative aspects of required actions. This model is combined with the understanding that “health education” is a “planned combination of learning experiences designed to predispose, enable, and reinforce voluntary behavior conducive to health in individuals, groups, or communities.” Health education supports the Health Belief Model in that there is profound importance in having health knowledge, but knowledge alone is not a sufficient step to change.

As knowledge alone is not sufficient to promote change, there are outlined theories that are meant to facilitate this change. Convergence Theory emphasizes the importance of sharing health information, and the importance of establishing a mutual agreement on “any collective or group action that would bring social change.” Schiavo outlines 12 key points for the Communication for Persuasion Theory:

  1. Be exposed to the message
  2. Pay attention to it
  3. Find it interesting or personally relevant
  4. Understand it
  5. Figure out how the new behavior could fit in his or her life
  6. Accept the change that is being proposed
  7. Remember and validate the message
  8. Be able to think of the message in relevant contexts or situations
  9. Make decisions on the basis of the retrieved information or message
  10. Behave in line with that decision
  11. Receive positive reinforcements
  12. Integrate the new behavior into his or her life.

In addition to this theory, there is also Communication for Social Change, which is explained as a “process of public and private dialogue through which people define who they are, what they want, and how they get it.” The combination of Communication for Persuasion Theory and the Communication for Social Change will act as the foundation of the current project.

These theories will be presented in a format that is similar to Schiavo’s explanation of Interactive Health Communication, which she explains as “the interaction of an individual-consumer, patient, caregiver, or professional – with or through an electronic device or communication technology to access or transmit health information or to receive guidance and support on a health-related issue.” Interactive health communication will be presented in a way that is designed to be understood by those with a low-health literacy, and use interactive elements in an ubiquitous and positive manner. It is also noted that successful communications and interactions require that the communicator have a solid understanding of the audience’s point of view.

Schiavo notes that “interactivity is considered more likely to influence a group to take action,” and states that there is great interest in the potential for the utilization of Internet communication, although there is an acknowledged concern of the credibility and accuracy of online information, lack of trust in websites, and digital privacy concerns. These concerns must be addressed to allow for the potential strengths of interactive online communication to not be outweighed by concerns with emerging forms of communication.


Schiavo, R. (2007). Health communication: From theory to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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