The importance of health communication

In 2010 health communication was allocated a specific chapter for the first time in the United States of America Health People publication. According to R. Parrot, author of ‘Emphasising ‘Communication’ in Health Communication’, the chapter illustrates the growing importance of health communication.
In the objectives set out by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the concept of health communication can affect almost every element of health and wellbeing, including health promotion, disease prevention and quality of life.

So what exactly is health communication and how can health institutions and organisations around the world effectively deliver it to the benefit of the health services they offer?

Health public relations

One key aspect of health communication is health public relations. Those involved with health PR manage both the internal and external communications for a health care organisation. Such health public relations professionals interact with the likes of doctors, nurses, patients, administrators and managers and create and communicate materials to the media and the public.

Health public relations specialists may be involved with organising events between the health facility and the public. They can also be involved in dealing with an unforeseen crisis within the organisation and play a leading role in health crisis management.

Health media relations

Another crucial component of effective health communications is health media relations, which involves a health facility or organisation building up relationships with the media, such as journalists and editors. Health media relations is specifically aimed at informing the public of a health organisation’s services, policies, practices and aspirations in a positive, credible and consistent way. A heath media relations professional will be involved with coordinating with those responsible for creating features and news for the media with the ultimate goal of maximising positive coverage of the organisation whilst ensuring it is prepared in case a health crisis emerges within an organisation and effective health crisis management is required.

Health public affairs

With the recent changes made to the funding, structure and regulation of the National Health Service, the UK’s healthcare system is more complex than ever. Consequently it is increasingly important that organisations are well informed and engaged with new practices and policies within the system.

Health public affairs can play an influential role in helping organisations remain aware of changes and developments being made within the healthcare sector. Health public affairs generally involves the development of relations between a healthcare organisation and governments, politicians and other decision-makers.

Health public affairs can be viewed as a sub-branch of health public relations as it combines building government relations with media relations, the dissemination of information, as well as corporate and social responsibility.

By combining health PR, health media relations and health public affairs, effective health communication will be achieved, which will help health organisations relate information both to the public and the media efficiently and effectively to convey a positive, credible and consistent message. A solid and quality health communication strategy will also help prepare health organisations in case a crisis did arise and a health crisis management strategy was required.

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