Public Health and Communication

Published 18 Oct 2017

Health is a basic concern of every human being such that our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing and others) are being sustained to ensure that we develop as healthy individuals capable of executing our duties for the aid of our community. The quest for human survival against diseases leads medical professionals to invent different medical instruments and develop medicines to secure treatment and cure for different diseases. The discipline of public health is among these people who aim to protect humans from illness.

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What is public health? There are many definitions of public health, but for the purpose of this paper, I opted to use the definition provided by the Institute of Medicine (IOM): the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health and efficiency through organized community effort for the sanitation of the environment, the control of communicable infections, the education of the individual in personal hygiene, the organization of medical and nursing services for the early diagnosis and preventive treatment of disease, and for the development of the social machinery to insure everyone a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health, so organizing these benefits as to enable every citizen to realize his birthright of health and longevity. (qtd in Turnock 6)

With this knowledge, a person who aims to serve in public health will be guided of the mission and visions of any organization or institution dedicated to public health. In addition, he or she will be equipped of the knowledge about the nature of the job and what to expect from it.

Public health offers variety of careers. Careers in public health include health services managers, public health agency directors, health officers, environmental and occupational health such as health engineers and specialists, public health physicians and nurses, safety professionals, social workers, public health policy makers, scientists and researchers, emergency responders, community planners, nutritionists, health educators, epidemiologists, and sanitarians, among others (American Public Health Association 1; Turnock 130). With regard to educational qualifications, some organizations and institutions prefer bachelor degree in science, a master’s degree in public health, and a doctoral degree in medicine, while others look for at least high school graduate with relative experience.

Relative training is also a requirement for some groups such that one must have experience in medical field or in community health practices and public service. As Nicoll wrote: a person who chose public health as career should be familiar with “fundamental facts, the scope and possibilities of utilization of the various branches of public health work, and profound grounded in at least one or more of the most important” (4). Moreover, one should expect that public health workers can be employed in any governmental public health agency such as a state health agency or local public health department. Others may find work in non-government organizations and private institutions such as pharmaceutical companies, medical centers, health research centers, hospitals, community clinics, among others (Turnock 132). Upon applying for a public work job, the resume should be in formal tone, emphasizing the desire to work for such job and highlighting the training and experiences earned if applicable. Public health workers aid the community, society, and government by providing needed services and assistance that guarantee safety, health competence, and sufficient health information to public.

Health communication refers to the dissemination and interpretation of messages related to health. Based on the definition, the communication actors include the disseminator of messages such as individual, organization, or any mass medium; and the interpreter or recipient of the message could be a person, a group of individuals, an organization, or an unbiased public (Ray and Donohew 4). Public health messages contain health related information, issues, problems, announcements, advocacies, and others. Thus, all health communications contain health and medical terminologies and topics such as diseases, treatments, medicine, medical tools, and instruments. Often, this health information is equivocal, ubiquitous, and pervasive (Ray and Donohew 10). In addition, Reardon identified that most health information are persuasive in nature – urging, persuading and motivating people “to adopt healthier lifestyles and behaviors as a matter of health promotion and disease prevention” (qtd. in Ray and Donohew 10).

Depending on the culture and health situation of patients and citizens involved in the process of health communication, the tone of conversation could be conversational or formal such that conversational form of communicating between patients and physicians allows more sharing and exchanging of information which is important to include in patient’s medical record. Formal tone of conversation is observed in the exchange of ideas and information between medical professionals, experts, and research specialists and in the conversation between doctors and patients seeking explanations or solutions to perceived symptoms of sickness or disease, while formal tone of writing is applied in health researches (Ray and Donohew 13-15).

In disseminating health information, health practitioners utilize print media such as magazines, journals, books, newspapers, brochures, fliers, and bulletins; broadcast media such as press releases and commercials on television, radio, pagers, and mobile phone or telephone; and electronic media such as web pages, HAN, and e-mail forums through the use of the internet (Iowa Department of Public Health Executive Team 7).

These media are often used in disseminating health issues, problems, and other information such as health policy development. These media can be utilized for internal and external health communication depending on the agenda or purpose of communication. Thus, media are important very important channels of health communication such print, broadcast, and electronic media are needed in order to centralize the health information being disseminated and to, as much as possible, avoid differences and conflicts about a particular health issue or problem being addressed.

Works Cited

  • American Public Health Association. “What is Public Health? Our commitment to Safe, Healthy Communities.” n.d. American Public Health Association. 17 Apr. 2009 .
  • Iowa Department of Public Health Executive Team. Iowa Department of Public Health Communication Forums Final Report. Iowa: Iowa Department of Public Health.24 Feb. 2006. April 16, 2009.
  • Nicoll, Matthias Jr. “Public Health as a Career.” American Journal of Public Health 15 (1924): 281-287.
  • Ray, Eileen Berlin, and Lewis Donohew. Communication and Health: Systems Perspective. Communication Textbook Series. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1990.
  • Turnock, Bernard J. Essentials of Public Health. Sudbury, MA: Jones and BartlettPublishers, 2007.
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