Mallory-Ann Davis Contributing Writer
Usually, when we are thinking about communication, people think about the biggest components, such as mass or interpersonal communication. However, one form sometimes slips by and remains unnoticed due to a single word in front of it: Health communication. A common misconception is that because it has the word “health” in the term, it doesn’t deal with mass media in ways that other forms of communication do. The field of health communication uses various media platforms to discuss and advertise products and programs that are put into place in order to help benefit the lives of the target audience.
Health communication still uses the same process as regular communication, which includes sending a message to a target audience and creating advertisements to catch their attention. These messages are sent via television commercials, as well as, radio, newspaper, and magazine advertisements. The most common form of health communication is public service announcements. These convey messages in an attempt to help their audience adapt to healthier lifestyles and to inform them of ways that they can achieve this goal. Public service announcements make it easy and effective to reach the audience. In the health communication field, advertisements have changed from only promoting products, to now promoting causes that need attention. An example is UNICEF’s advertisement stating that if you donated $1 to the total of your restaurant bill, that dollar would help to feed children in need.
One very interesting public service announcement that came out of Australia, and has been promoted across the field of health communication, is “Metro Trains: Dumb Ways to Die.” The advertisement sounds just like its title; it states the different ways that someone could die that we would never think of, like selling kidneys on the internet or getting toast out of the toaster with a fork. This advertisement uses a catchy song and bright colors to attract the attention of the audience, but what we don’t realize is that it is a public safety announcement for train safety. The advertisement never once states anything about trains, but the company promoting train safety did not want a gloomy public service announcement. This is just an example of how health communication uses the same methods as advertising to convey a message about something that a company wants to raise awareness of.
Health communication is just one of the many forms of communication that exists today, and one might think that health and communication have nothing to do with one another. However, the two topics influence each other more than people might think. Creating advertisements and campaigns for good causes is one of the main goals of health communication. With successful goals and campaigns, health communication can be used to make the world a healthier place.