Health Communication

Health communication involves the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that affect health. Health communication can take many forms, ranging from the use of modern mass and multi-media to traditional and culture-specific forms of communication such as storytelling, puppet shows and songs.

With increased dominance of mass and digital media in a growingly connected world, the need for effective health communication strategy grows increasingly relevant. The scope of health communication includes research and practice to reach vulnerable and underserved populations, engaging communities or the general public on specific health conditions, framing health issues to advocate for policy change, increasing capacity for effective communication in clinical settings, and more.

The Certificate in Health Communication enables students to design, implement, and evaluate health communication interventions; use and integrate various health communication methods and strategies (e.g., interpersonal communication, mass media, community mobilization, citizen engagement, policy communication, clinical communication, etc.); and acquire critical skills in health literacy, new media, risk communication, cultural competency, as well as a grounding in other contemporary issues and innovation in health communication.

Graduates from this Certificate may take jobs in a variety sectors, including but not limited to marketing and communication firms; nonprofit organizations; foundations; government agencies; research institutions; hospitals; and healthcare companies. Job titles may include Communications Associate; Digital Media Manager; Social Media Officer; Marketing Associate; Program Coordinator; Consultant; Research Associate.

Admissions Eligibility

Health Communication is open to Columbia MPH students in:

Health Policy and Management
Population & Family Health
Sociomedical Sciences

Learn More

Visit the Certificates Database to learn more about core and credit requirements. 

Sample Courses

Health Communication
(Required Course) This course introduces students to the field of health communication theory and practice, and its key action areas. It prepares students to design, implement and evaluate health communication interventions within a systematic, participatory, engaging, process-oriented, and multidisciplinary framework that aims at behavioral, social, and organizational results and ultimately, improved public health outcomes. As health communication is grounded in many theories and principles (e.g., behavioral and social change, marketing, intergroup, sociology, anthropology, cultural-centered and positive deviance theory, mass media and new media theory, medical models, community organizing, social networks, etc.) that are also shared by other disciplines in the public health, health care, and community development fields, these theories will be briefly reviewed in relation to their specific application to health communication theory and practice. The planning frameworks and practical exercises included in this course are specific to the field of health communication and provide students with core competencies and skills for future work in health communication within the nonprofit, corporate, academic, and government sectors both in the United States and globally.

New Media and Health
(Required Course) New media, including online and digital media technologies, are introducing significant change in contemporary societies and lifestyles. Recent examples include the rapid and powerful diffusion of social media and mobile technologies. The emergence of new media and the online revolution intersect with public health in many ways, raising new questions and affording new opportunities for intervention. Public health professionals of the 21st century must attend to and leverage these trends. This course introduces and contextualizes the role of new media in public health and prepare students to utilize new media tools when designing interventions. The student learning experience is designed to demonstrate new media technologies through a blend of online and classroom modalities, allowing students to take the perspectives of technology users, designers, implementers, and researchers. The course introduces examples of new media in public health through demonstrations, guest speakers, and literature, and synthesizes significant lessons across examples. Students will also engage in design of a new media technology-based project.

Advancing Health Literacy
(Required Course) Health literacy is defined in Health People 2010 as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services for appropriate health decisions." This course explores the multi-layered interactions between health and literacy. The course begins by examining the issues related to literacy in the US, transitions to the concept of health literacy, and then explores issues related to reading comprehension, and usability of health related materials. Through the class, students evaluate major health literacy assessment instruments and learn how to administer the tools for different populations. The course focuses on the role of language and culture as confounders to health literacy. Time will be spent assessing and then developing appropriate health materials for print, visual, auditory and online venues. The course will shift towards examination of different health situations utilizing a health literacy approach including the research participants and informed consent, health literacy and medication/adherence, patient-physician communication models, risk comprehension, and special topics such as emergency preparedness. The class includes a mixture of didactic lectures, analysis of reading materials, group discussion and exercises.

Other example courses include:

  • Dissemination and Implementation Science (required course)
  • Introduction to Health Advocacy (elective course)
  • Coercion and Persuasion in Public Health (elective course)
  • Community Based Participatory Research (elective course)
  • Public Health GIS (elective course)

Related Certificates

Health Promotion Research and Practice
Public Health Informatics
Public Health Research Methods

Related Links

Learner Center for Public Health Promotion
Region II Public Health Training Center 
The Harlem Health Promotion Center (HHPC)