For my final blog as a contributing writer on Upstream, I’d like to reflect back on the last two semesters and what I’ve learned completing my Interdisciplinary Certificate in Health Communications. First and foremost: communication really is key.
In my Masters of Public Health program, we learn the ins and outs of nutrition basics –what the recommendations are throughout the the life cycle, how to treat difficult medical conditions with food, how to plan impactful public health programs, how to analyze the latest research, and more. In the first part of my internship to become a Registered Dietitian, I also learned firsthand how communication can make or break health promotion efforts, the success of a grant proposal, or a one-on-one counseling session. A recurring theme in all of this is that the communication has to be exceptional in order to see a favorable outcome.
Health communication is a rigorous social science. There are theories (more than I’m able to wrap my head around) trying to predict how communication strategies will affect behavior change. Research looks at how images may affect attitudes and self-efficacy, how visual appeal dictates our trust, how tailoring communications helps make them more effective, how the media promotes but can also combat stigma, and how interpersonal communication can enhance large-scale campaigns. The list goes on.
What I’ve come to find in my short time in the health comm world is that human beings are very complicated creatures, and how (or when or who or why) you communicate health messages to them is extremely important to the success of that message getting through. Applying this to my future profession in nutrition, you can’t just tell someone to eat healthy and expect results! The same goes for public health efforts attempting to reach people at the population level. This is especially important to remember as a health professional, because the way we think about these topics may diverge from how the general public thinks of them. We should always trust the audience and know that however a message resonates with them is important to the way we design our campaigns and messages.
So thank you, health communication world, for letting me get a glimpse into your complex and necessary world. I hope the things I’ve learned can help me become a better nutrition professional where I can make lasting changes for people who need it.
Photo source: Virginia Sea Grant via Flickr.com