Public Health in the Media

Course content

Public health research is often in the news – from advice on how much women should drink during pregnancy to debates about vaccination policy. Communicating with the public is also an integral part of public health research and practice, from gathering potential user perspectives to media campaigns that try to persuade people to change health behaviours. In both cases, it is difficult to communicate in a way that satisfies everyone: researchers often complain that their work is misrepresented, journalists respond that they are just doing their job, practitioners feel frustrated that patients don't follow the advice of health promotion campaigns, and members of the public often feel unrepresented or unmotivated. Today, there are many opportunities for bringing research closer to the public, and there is increasing focus on participatory, 2-way communication. However, intuitions about how to do 'good communication' are often proved wrong, and goals and outcomes are often unclear. Research is needed - both to inform practical communication activities, and to help us understand more broadly how communication works. 

The course will be structured around case studies of public health communication spanning a range of media; e.g., news articles, online video talks, public health campaigns, and museum exhibitions. Each example will be paired with relevant empirical or theoretical articles from science communication and public health studies, to guide our analysis.  

This is not a practical skills training course. Instead, the course helps students to use interdisciplinary literature to develop a reflective understanding of public communication that can then inform their future media work and interactions with other professionals in interdisciplinary public health contexts.

Education

MSc in Public Health Science
BSc in Public Health Science

 

Learning outcome

After the course, students should be able to:

Knowledge:

  • Describe some of the diverse goals, effects, and challenges of communicating about public health research with public audiences, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of different media
  • Describe some central research questions and methods of science communication and public health communication studies, and consider how this applies to practical public health contexts
  • Describe some key theoretical concepts from the science communication and public health communication literature

 

Skills:

  • Analyse real-world examples of public health research communication, in terms of their goals, methods, and possible effects, using theoretical and empirical literature to guide analysis.
  • Critically analyse how health, bodies, and research are represented in media communication
  • Reflect on how and when public health practitioners, researchers, and institutions should communicate with public audiences

 

Competences:

  • Apply the reflective skills gained during the course in future interactions with the media, whether giving interviews, writing popular articles, or working on health promotion campaigns
  • Apply the critical analytical tools developed with respect to examples of public health communication to other media and cultural products

Class work will include student presentations, group work and plenum discussion of the case studies, with short lectures by the course leader to draw out key points. Students will be asked to look at the case studies provided before each class, so that we can make the best use of the class time.

Literature will be uploaded to Absalon, along with reading guides. 

Key texts include:

  • Bultitude, K. (2011), The Why and How of Science Communication. In: Rosulek, P., ed. Science Communication. Pilsen: European Commission.
  • Bernhardt, J. M. (2004). Communication at the Core of Effective Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 94(12), 2051–2053. 
  • Logan, R. A. (2008). Health campaign research. In M. Bucchi & B. Trench (Eds.). Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. Oxford: Routledge. 
  • Wakefield, M.A., Loken, B., & Hornik, R.C. (2010). Use of mass media campaigns to change health behavior. Lancet, 376, 1261-71.
  • Heldman, A.B., Schindelar, J., & Weaver, J.B. (2013). Social Media Engagement
and Public Health Communication: Implications for Public Health Organizations Being Truly “Social”. Public Health Review, 35(1), 1-18.

This course is open for student enrolled in the MSc in Health Informatics, Global Health, Human Biology, and Health Science without pre-approval.

Written
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Discussion and class activities will provide ongoing feedback about students understanding of the literature and analysis skills. Students will be offered an opportunity for brief individual written feedback prior to the exam period, if they hand in course activities. 

ECTS
5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio, n/a
The exam will be a portfolio task, with smaller course assignments building up to a final case study analysis and exam questions. The smaller assignments will relate closely to the class work. Students will be able to edit the whole portfolio before handing it in. Students may work in groups but must hand in individual portfolios.
Aid
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

The evaluation of the porfolios will assess whether the learning goals listed above have been achieved. Students should use the exam to demonstrate that they can critically analyse public health communication, combining their knowledge of public health issues and personal reflections on the media with theoretical and empirical literature. An awareness of the methodological difficulties in planning and evaluating public communication should inform their analysis. 

Excellent exams will do the following: 

Knowledge:

  • Describe some of the diverse goals, effects, and challenges of communicating about public health research with public audiences, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of different media
  • Describe some central research questions and methods of science communication and public health communication studies, and consider how this applies to practical public health contexts
  • Describe some key theoretical concepts from the science communication and public health communication literature

 

Skills:

  • Analyse real-world examples of public health research communication, in terms of their goals, methods, and possible effects, using theoretical and empirical literature to guide analysis.
  • Critically analyse how health, bodies, and research are represented in media communication
  • Reflect on how and when public health practitioners, researchers, and institutions should communicate with public audiences
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 78
  • English
  • 138