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:

The Competencies for this Certificate are as follows:

  1. Apply theory and utilize strategy-based communication principles, models and planning frameworks in the design, implementation and evaluation of health communication interventions that would result in healthier behaviors, and/or social, organizational and policy change.
  2. Design health communication messages, activities, strategies and/or programs to advance health equity both in the US and globally.
  3. Integrate health literacy, media literacy and cultural competence-related concepts and skills within health communication messages and interventions.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to create and manage content on new media platforms and collaborate with digital stakeholders.
  5. Communicate a public health story, risk, information and/or necessary actions to the public in an influential and engaging manner.

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. 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.

Communicating Health Risks to the Public

(Required Course) This course explores risk communication theories and strategies, and their application to effective communication in public health settings. The processes and effects of persuasive communication as they relate to message framing are also explored. Students learn how to use effective communication to advance individual and community-level decision-making about public health issues. Students will learn how communication impacts the public’s experience of health risks, and will practice designing and delivering culturally competent messages about potential health hazards. This course is highly experiential and provides students opportunities to practice delivering a variety of public health messages and receive peer and expert feedback in the protected environment of the classroom.

New Media and Health

(Required Course) This course will expand the toolbox of the next generation of health communicators by navigating through applications and functions of new media and health. New media is an ever-evolving field that provides increased mobility, interactivity, and customization of health communication content. Students will explore opportunities and risks that come with new media health programs and acquire a deep understanding of the tensions the field operates in, including nudging healthy behaviors vs. spamming the audience; providing tailored media content vs. respecting privacy and security concerns; and striving for a participating audience vs. controlling the health messages. Students will identify best practices and lessons learned through case studies, hands-on exercises, social engagement, and lectures.

Digital Storytelling: Why Public Health Matters

(Required Course) This five-week interactive workshop teaches students the fundamental concepts and skills of digital storytelling. Digital stories are multimedia movies that combine photographs, video, animation, sound, music, and text with a narrative voice. Students will share first-person narratives about public health passions and/or experiences and turn them into videos that can be used for training, community mobilization, advocacy, and more. The workshop is led by facilitators from, and with a curriculum designed by, StoryCenter, an international non-profit organization that assists people with the use of digital media tools to craft and share stories that lead to learning, action, and positive change. View digital stories made by past students.

Other example courses include:

  • Advancing Health Literacy (required course)
  • Data Visualization & Storytelling (elective course)
  • Introduction to Health Advocacy (elective course)
  • Community Engagement Practice (elective course)
  • Public Health GIS (elective course)

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